The Irish HR Professionals 101 Rulebook for Christmas Parties!

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The Irish HR Professionals 101 Rulebook for Christmas Parties!

So Cliff Richard is warbling, the plum pudding is warming and everyone is getting excited about the annual night out and their festive break. All sounds fantastic and good will is in the air. By the end of the night however statistics show that one in two parties end up with colleagues fighting, one in three with incidents of sexual harassment, and one in five with accidents involving employees. 20% admitted to having vomited at a party and 3% admitted to having cheated on their significant other.

It can be a HR nightmare but no fear our fellow HR comrades, is here to help you too have a peaceful break:

  • Try and avoid having a Christmas party that precedes a work day so any “recovery” time is not a workplace issue. If that’s not possible, proactively tell employees what you expect of them during the event and the day after.” This can easily be done in a very light-hearted manner, maybe even through an email.
  • Make sure that your company policy on harassment is up to date. If you can bring it to the attention of all employees then even better. You don’t want to be a killjoy but your company does need to run a professional outing and you can tactfully introduce an update to the policy a week in advance. This is a great way to prevent any unwanted attention under the Christmas baubles. By the way, no mistletoe!
  • Designate responsibility for supervising the event to specific line managers, after all you will want to let your own hair down also. Provide them with guidelines on dealing with drunk or disorderly employees. Gently reminding a slightly “worse for wear” employee that they may not feel too good in the morning may well have the desired effect of them substituting alcohol for water or soft drinks. We have seen this in action and it works a treat.

christmas party

  • If the company is paying for alcohol, make sure that there is a reasonable limit. Personally we would avoid this entirely but if you are then help avoid the misuse of alcohol by ensuring there is plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food readily available.
  • If you are getting the caterers in, make sure and establish that all of their staff are trained to the mandatory food safety standards. You certainly don’t want a bout of food poisoning to run through the entire office! Can have impacts lasting a lot longer than a week!
  • As an employer, remember that you have a duty of care towards your staff and therefore have a responsibility to ensure that they get home safely. You may not necessarily wish to provide a bus or taxi service but you can at least encourage employees to either pre-book taxis or to research late night public transport options. If the event is offsite, you could event provide employees with a list of transport options.
  • Please remember that Christmas is a Christian celebration and is not observed by every religion. Although some employees may not celebrate Christmas, these employees should not be discriminated against and should be given the choice to attend the “Office” Party as opposed to the “Christmas”
  • Images of the Christmas party going viral on social media sites never happens for all the right reasons. It may be humbug, but normal rules when representing the company, also apply at the Christmas party. Time to ensure those social media policies are fully up to date.
  • Make sure managers/supervisors are aware that they have extra responsibilities because of their position in the company. Discussions about performance, promotion, salary or career prospects at the Christmas party should be avoided at all costs, especially if alcohol has been taken. In the case of Nixon v Ross Coates, a Manager knew of an employee’s pregnancy and began speculating at the office party with other employees about who the child’s father might be. It didn’t end well !

As long as the organisation takes appropriate steps, there should in most cases hopefully be no incidents and if there are, the repercussions will certainly be minimised.

From all the team here at, we wish you a healthy and happy Christmas break. Remember to relax and enjoy the festive season.