In theory, Christmas parties are great, but in reality, they can be a minefield. No matter how sophisticated we all like to believe we are, there is something about champagne and a night on the town that can make us lose our inhibitions and behave in ways that are not acceptable.

It is important for employers to have guidelines in place to deal with inappropriate behaviour. In fact, having guidelines such as these will go a long way to eliminating unacceptable behaviour arising in the first place. Here are six tips to help employers deal with and prevent unwanted incidents:

  1. Ensure that the organisation has policies and procedures in place to deal with bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. Make sure that all employees are aware of these policies.
  2. Ensure that employees are made aware of the fact that these policies and procedures can and will extend to outside of the workplace. Advise employees that inappropriate behaviour, or alleged inappropriate behaviour, will be dealt with in exactly the same manner as if it occurred in the workplace. Most parties are held away from the workplace and employees should note that this does not mean that different or more relaxed rules apply to their behaviour.
  3. Parties are not the appropriate location for discussions in relation to career prospects, promotions, or any other area with which an employee potentially has a grievance. Members of the management team should refrain from having such discussions that may lead to grievances further down the line should there be a dispute as to the discussion.
  4. Employers should review their Social Media Policy or circulate specific guidelines in advance of the Christmas party highlighting that employees should refrain from uploading material on social media sites including Facebook and Twitter, which may affect the reputation of the employer or infringe an employee’s right to privacy. Employees should be warned that any conduct in breach of this rule may lead to disciplinary action.
  5. The employer’s duty of care towards their employees extends to events like the office Christmas party and therefore employers should consider post-party travel arrangements for their employees to reduce the likelihood of employees taking undue risks during their journey home. 
  6. Any complaints made following the Christmas party should be investigated promptly and follow the disciplinary procedures if necessary. Any disciplinary action taken should be appropriate, proportionate and consistently applied.

Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Daoibh

14 December 2016

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