Hosting Christmas Parties: How To Celebrate Safely This YearPosted in : HR Updates on 15 December 2021
2021 has been a challenging year. After the disappointment of the cancellation of last year’s festive plans, organisations and staff alike are keener than ever to get together and have a Christmas celebration this year.
For many organisations, this could be the first-time staff will come together since the beginning of the pandemic and, even though the pandemic has propelled remote and hybrid working, it is not a replacement for in-person interaction. The past couple of years has reinforced the importance of bringing teams together and rewarding staff for a challenging year.
Despite the desire to celebrate and get together, Employers should not ignore what is happening. It is important to be mindful of staff health and safety obligations - the Omicron variant is spreading, infection rates are rising, and more and more countries are taking steps to re-introduce COVID-19 restrictions. So, there is a lot you should consider before throwing a Christmas party.
With this in mind, we will explore the risks organisations need to consider and steps to mitigate these risks.
Understand How Staff Feel About Christmas Plans
If you are considering a Christmas party, take time to find out how staff feel about it as this can help inform decisions as to the type of event. There will be differing viewpoints and levels of anxiety. HR will need to reassure staff and attendance should not be compulsory.
Minimise Risks By Having A Get-Together Outdoors
Being outdoors is generally advised as being the safer option and, there is less likelihood of transmitting COVID-19. It is winter and, even though the weather may not be good, many hospitality venues have adapted with facilities in place to make the outdoor gathering memorable.
If you prefer an indoor setting, try to keep this as contained as possible by minimising contact with other Christmas party groups. A great way to do this is by booking a smaller venue or function room. An alternative which depends on the work premises is to split employees into smaller groups for lunch or a get-together.
Have Clear Guidelines
If you are hosting a Christmas party, you must consider how this will be managed and provide clear guidance to employees to set the framework for a Covid-safe event. You can create policies detailing expectations and measures. These guidelines should be from your perspective as the Employer to ensure safety and alleviate any concerns from staff. Be clear about what happens if someone falls sick pre-party. Staff should be clear if they should attend or not if they are suffering from a non-COVID cold or flu. The policy could also include guidance as to what would happen if there was an outbreak. Employers could also make lateral flow testing mandatory for an in-person Christmas party to reduce any risk.
Appropriate Behaviour At The Christmas Party
Pandemic or not, all staff need to be reminded that the Christmas party is also an extension of the workplace. Clear boundaries should be set, stipulating what actions are unacceptable such as fighting, drug-taking, excessive consumption of alcohol, and sexual harassment. Employers should consider capping the amount of free alcohol staff can consume. HR should remind staff of the organisation's policies and procedures such as Drugs and Alcohol, Disciplinary, Dignity at Work, and Social Media policies and procedures. Employees should also be reminded that it is okay to share photos from the event on their social media platforms as long as they are appropriate. As a duty of care to employees, Employers could consider arranging taxis to take employees home.
Virtual Get Together
If Employers feel having a physical Christmas party is too high of a COVID-19 risk, they could arrange a get-together via zoom. It may not have the same impact as a Christmas party but, HR can highlight and acknowledge the challenges of hosting a pandemic, celebrate all accomplishments, and let employees know that perhaps an in-person party may hold in the new year.
Keep Up To Date
If you decide to hold an in-person event, it's necessary to keep track of news and guidance as this is an evolving situation. It is also crucial as an Employer to tread carefully and uphold whatever advice and guidance are in place at the time of your event.
Stay safe and enjoy whatever form of Christmas get-together you choose.This article is correct at 15/12/2021
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.