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Employers Urged To Strike Right Balance On Christmas Parties

Businesses Must Recognise Benefits – And Pitfalls – Of Festive Events


Legal experts at Irwin Mitchell have urged employers to not ignore the benefits that Christmas parties can offer, while also warning them to bear in mind the potential consequences that can emerge when they go out of control.

The festive period is once again just around the corner, but the economic climate means that many businesses and organisations will be carefully considering what they can do to ensure staff have an opportunity to celebrate.

While research by communications firm Pitney Bowes showed that 48% were not planning a Christmas party, employment law specialists at Irwin Mitchell are calling on companies to not underestimate the huge benefits that such events can have on staff morale.

Fergal Dowling, employment Partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “It’s proven to be another difficult 12 months for many companies and it is now the time of year for businesses to thank staff for all of their hard work.

“While it is understandable that many companies are feeling the strain, even a low-key event could prove to be a hit with members of staff who want to know that their employer recognises their contribution. A Christmas party can help to not only boost morale but also keep them engaged, potentially boosting the retention of employees with important skills.”

However, Fergal added that  - regardless of the size of the event – employers need to pay attention to the law when preparing the Christmas party, as any wrong turn on the issue could leave them open to potential legal action.

“Businesses need to remember that they have a duty of care to employees when it comes to Christmas parties as, even though they are often held outside of office hours and away from work premises, legally they are regarded as extensions of office life.

“Because of this, companies need to bear in mind the potential threat to members of staff, when what seems like banter or harmless fun can quickly transform into harassment or even violence.”

According to Fergal, another issue to consider is concerns over discrimination.

He outlined: “Some employers may inadvertently be accused of discrimination by organising something that excludes members of the workforce, such as older staff or those with religious beliefs which mean they choose not to consume alcohol.

“Christmas is undoubtedly a time for fun, but businesses need to remember their responsibilities to all members of staff do not end at 5pm.”