11 Oct 2018
For many employers, Halloween is a nightmare—not just because of the costumes, but because of the potential HR and health & safety risks that can occur as a result of the holiday.
Workers wearing inappropriate costumes to work can result in discrimination claims, while sexually explicit costumes can result in harassment claims. With workers in fun outfits instead of their regular work attire, and all hopped up on sugar, employees can become distracted from their work and the whole day can be a write off.
Even worse—if your company hosts any kind of informal Halloween gathering, whether it’s drinks after work or a few innocent games during the lunch break, these scenarios can pose all sorts of risks, both to HR and health & safety.
So, it may be tempting to simply send an email to all staff telling them ‘Halloween is cancelled this year.’
However, if celebrated correctly, Halloween can have a tremendous impact on company morale and actually boost productivity.
First, you will want to set out your policy on dressing up. You may want to ban individuals from donning their outfits, and in most cases this should be fine. Especially if your workplace requires has a strict uniform policy in the first place due to health & safety. If you do decide to let employees dress up, however, then make sure you outline exactly what is and isn’t appropriate. Make sure you do not make your list exhaustive however, as an employee may protest that ‘you never said I couldn’t wear this’ and you will have nothing to fall back on.
Secondly, set out how you will be celebrating Halloween (if at all) at your workplace in advance. Employees won’t come to work expecting a booze-fuelled party, and will understand that they are expected to work as normal. If you haven’t already, adopt a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol and drug use in the workplace.
If guidelines are set out properly, in advance, and are properly enforced when the times comes, then you should be able to avoid any potential mishaps. What you have then is a workforce happy for the shake-up of the usual atmosphere, re-invigorating and motivating them. Not only that, Halloween gatherings can be great for team-building. Dressing up in particular can be great for breaking down the usual boundaries, and starting new conversations between employees, allowing them to grow closer as a result.
The chances of employees getting distracted and lessening productivity is certainly higher on days such as Halloween. What’s important is knowing where to draw the line. If you can see that an employee’s productivity has dipped, tell them so. Being direct will garner the best results. Finally, for health & safety risks, particularly relating to decoration, conduct a risk assessment prior to the celebration to identify any possible high-risk points and make appropriate adjustments.
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