Deck the Halls with Holly not Discrimination

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As the festive season approaches, our attention turns once more to work functions, in particular the annual Christmas party.

After last year’s festivities were placed on hold, many employees will welcome the opportunity to socialise with colleagues and ‘let their hair down’. While your Christmas party may take place outside of normal working hours, employees still represent your business and should act accordingly, as such, any behaviour not in-keeping with your values may be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.

Many grievances and claims over the festive period relate to harassment and discrimination, employers must take steps to prevent this therefore it’s important to be proactive in setting expectations and addressing misconduct.

Setting expectations

Policies such as ‘Behaviour Outside of Work’ and ‘Alcohol and Drugs’ are key to establishing clear expectations for employee conduct when attending work events. In the run up to the festive period we recommend that such policies are reissued to staff as a reminder of this.

We know that some employers may pay for provision of alcohol, if this is the case, it’s advisable to remind employees that they should not drink and drive but must instead make alternative travel arrangements in advance.

You may also consider reissuing ‘Equal Opportunities’ and ‘Anti-Harassment and Bullying’ policies, both of which should clearly outline behaviours that are likely to be considered discriminatory or constitute harassment. Employees, particularly managers, should receive some form of Equal Opportunities training to ensure they understand these policies and are able to identify and challenge discriminatory behaviour.

If you haven’t rolled out equal opportunities training before, or think your employees might need a refresher we can help. All of our sessions are designed to build confidence and are interactive to help you put what you learn into practice. You can find out more about our Equal Opportunities training and other sessions here.

Addressing misconduct

There doesn’t need to be a complaint before you can act on behaviour you think is likely to cause offence.

If you believe an employee’s behaviour is likely to cause offence, a quiet word on the night might avoid further upset and can help to create an environment in which employees feel supported and valued. This should always be followed up with a more formal discussion during working time. Even if you settle on issuing an informal warning this will reiterate your position on behaviour outside of the workplace and demonstrate that you take any offensive conduct seriously.

If you’re concerned about behaviour outside of work, need support implementing any of the policies outlined above, or would like to arrange training for your staff, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

(November 2021)