The Office Party
Planning the festivities
Like all good events, it doesn’t just happen. It requires planning. This article provides some helpful suggestions for employers when planning the office party to minimise the risk of staff disputes arising either during or after the festivities have died down.
Employees attending the works party are treated as being at work in terms of expected behaviour and responsibilities under Irish employment law.
Work policies apply. This would be a good time to remind employees of those policies. The main ones applicable are, dignity at work, bullying & harassment, social media. If gifts are exchanged at work it is important that the gift does not breach the dignity at work policy by causing offence or harassment.
It is also a good time for you to review those policies to ensure that they cover all situations. If you do not have any policies, please contact us and we will provide tailor made solutions for you.
You should prepare an email to send to all employees reminding them of the importance of following the guidelines set out in the policies and of the standard of behaviour expected of them.
The social media policy is very important for the office party. You do not want anyone posting images of you or your employees in an intoxicated state on social media. The same applies to posting comments or information which would tend to lower the reputation of your business or its staff. You need to ensure that your soocial media policy is robust and fit for purpose. The cost of having your policy reviewed by an experienced professional is minor when compared to the potential reputational damage that can flow from an online post which goes viral. A stitch in time.
When the party starts
It is a good idea to appoint someone as a “designated survivor”. This is someone who remains sober and can deal with any crisis or dispute which may arise.
Remember that as an employer you have a duty of care towards your employees. If an incident arises at they office party of , say, bullying or harassment then you have a duty to investigate it. If you do not have adequate policies in place, where do you start?
Some employees mistakenly believe that what happens at the party stays at the party. This is not the case. If there is a potential breach of an employees work related rights then you must investigate it. It is recommended that you carry out a full investigation the next day at work. Try to avoid commencing disciplinary investigation at the party, unless the breach may amount to gross misconduct. Take details of what occurred. Send the parties involved home if necessary. Make sure that you do not take any action which would jepordise the subsequent investigation. For example, if a member of management witnessed the incident, do not appoint them to lead the enquiry.
How are employees getting home?
This can be covered in the initial email mentioned earlier. Remind employees of the danger of drink driving. Ask them to ensure that they have arranged a safe way of getting home. Provide the telephone numbers of reputable taxi firms.If the numbers warrant it, consider providing a minibus. You are responsible for the safety of your employees.
Give consideration to holding the office party at the weekend. For businesses who close at the weekend this can be an excellent way to avoid the effects of the post party hangover. People turning up for work still under the influence, or at the very least under the weather. It reduces the chances of an employee calling in sick. You should always ensure that non alcoholic drinks are available.
Working over the holiday period.
Try to avoid discrimination when selecting people for the holiday roster. Do not automatically choose someone whose religion does not celebrate the holiday or someone who does not have any children. You shoud have a system for selecting workers which does not breach any of the grounds of discrimination listed in the Equality legislation. It is best to have it covered in the contract.
Enjoy the party.
If you have followed these suggestions then you can relax an enjoy the party.
Where can I get more advice on employment law ?
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