15 Dec 2016
The countdown to Christmas is now well and truly underway. With the days soon to turn into single digits before the present swapping and cracker pulling commences, what are the main points employers should be mindful of during the festive period?
The Christmas Party
The main area to monopolise employer’s concerns will arguably be the office Christmas party. These events carry a lot of negative connotations, and over the past couple of days have even featured as a Twitter trend: #ChristmasPartyFails.
While Christmas parties are the prime opportunity for your employees to acquaint with colleagues they may not have the chance to inside the workplace, it’s important for them to upkeep the same conduct as is associated with the business.
Amy Paxton, Employment Law Expert at Croner, says: “Christmas parties should essentially be an extension of the workplace. Of course, this shouldn’t stop anyone celebrating and having fun, but employees should be mindful of their actions. “Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees at office parties, if those actions are deemed to have been committed in the course of employment. “Therefore, clear communication prior to an office Christmas party will set boundaries for your employees and gives you the chance to convey what you may consider as unacceptable behaviour. “A company email before the event regarding respect and expectations could suffice, or provide a clear policy on the standards of behaviour expected at office parties and what kinds of behaviour are unacceptable.”
Many of your employees will wish to decorate their desks on the lead up to Christmas, which normally poses no threat and helps to boost office morale. However, there are four areas which Stephen Thomas, Health and Safety Expert, urges employers to think about:
- Any decorations such as paper chains must be kept well away from any sources of heat
- Ensure that decorations are securely fastened – if you have a security system that uses motion sensors, a false alarm could be triggered by falling decorations
- Check that all items of electrical equipment are suitable for in the workplace; even temporary decorations such as fairy lights. Equipment should carry an appropriate CE mark
- Try to avoid the use of extension leads with trailing cables wherever possible because of the additional tripping and damage hazards that could arise. Do not allow electrical chains to be ‘daisy chained’.
The Winter Blues
“While employers cannot govern what an employee does outside of work, excessive alcohol consumption and/or insufficient sleep over the festive ‘party’ season can mean that an employee’s ability to perform their work may be reduced,” Stephen Thomas warns. “If the employee is in a dangerous occupation then there may be serious safety implications which need to be addressed by the company’s alcohol and substance abuse policy.
Promoting sensible eating, moderate alcohol consumption and regular exercise can make a difference, but of course is often the last thing on people’s minds over Christmas. “Because of the extra pressures of the season, both in terms of work and personal life, supervisors and managers need to be increasingly vigilant in spotting signs of stress among their workers (you can find the Five Common Signs of Workplace Stress here).” Stephen concludes: “Offering professional support, particularly during this time of year, can be a big boost to the emotional wellbeing of employees.”
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