Ask the HR expert 

November 1, 2016

Q: Christmas is on its way and while I want my staff to enjoy themselves and have fun, I found the seasonal period last year very stressful. How can I make it better this year?

From the organisation of Christmas parties to problems with holiday requests, you are right to be concerned about the festive season. Here are my dos and don’ts to help more than just the party go smoothly:

* If you have not already arranged Christmas leave, sort it quickly. Assumptions might have been made and there needs to be fairness in authorising time off.

* Inappropriate ‘secret Santa’ gifts can cause grievances and offence. Remind staff to be respectful of their co-workers.

* Don’t forget to invite any employees who are currently on maternity leave to the party to avoid a claim for pregnancy discrimination. All employees have a right to equal treatment so invite them all, including fixed-term temporary workers, part-time staff and agency workers.

* Be aware that some of your staff may not drink alcohol; don’t make it mandatory to attend and perhaps also put on an event that does not revolve around alcohol.

* You have a duty of care for your employees and at the very least you should remind your employees not to drink and drive. Consider the timing of the event so that people can access public transport and remind employees of the danger of being over the limit the following morning.

* It is often too easy for an employer to brush off a staff grievance after a Christmas party, on the basis that the behaviour took place outside of work. But you must ensure that you investigate as you would in every other situation.

* There could be an impact from employees sharing photos and jokes from the works party on their or indeed your business social media accounts. Many harassment and bullying cases are linked to interactions on social media.

* Make sure employees are well aware of the consequences of pulling a sickie the day after your office do! Their hangover should not cause you a headache, too.

* And last of all, enjoy it!

Do you have a HR question for Jayne? Email her at

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