Christmas is just around the corner, but COVID continues to significantly impact both our personal and professional lives. And with the office Christmas party already knocking on our door, many businesses are considering all their options on how the occasion can be celebrated safely. As much as we’d like for things to be “business as usual” this festive period, planning for Christmas 2021 requires a little more work to keep workforces happy and healthy.
As an employer, we’re sure you think your team deserves to let their hair down and of course, every company is different and each one must decide what to do regarding their holiday festivities.
Just remember, you do have a duty of care to your employees and so the following blog aims to give you some advice on staying safe when throwing a Christmas party.
Do your employees want a Christmas party this year?
Christmas parties are a must for some people and not so much for others. It is important to remember that everyone is different. Some employees may prefer an alternative option, such as an afternoon off, a Christmas bonus, or a virtual event.
Make sure you check with your workforce first and allow them to suggest different options – the last thing you want to do is make those individuals who don’t want to attend a party, feel like they must. This can impact team morale and could put people at risk, especially as the number of COVID cases rise.
Set clear boundaries
Before any Christmas event, make sure you gently remind your team what is expected from them when it comes to their behaviour and the COVID guidelines. You don’t want to dampen high spirits during the festive period; however, it is important that you set the boundaries early so that everyone understands the companies’ guidelines and has ample opportunity to raise any questions or concerns. It will mean that there’s less chance of having to deal with the consequences after the event.
Also be mindful that even if you elect not to hold an officially organised event yet your staff arrange a get together themselves, as an employer you may still be liable for your staff’s actions at that event. Why? Because these events might be regarded as closely connected to employment and so the employer becomes vicariously liable.
Remind your employees of your HR policies, not only relating to harassment, discrimination, code of conduct, and behaviour at work related social events, but also what the COVID rules are, whether that is mask wearing or social distancing restrictions.
Reiterate that these policies still apply at any company event, social or otherwise, that they are in place to protect the workforce and ensure that everyone has an enjoyable time.
If it is a large workforce, suggest smaller department events
For larger teams, organising an event for thousands of employees may be a logistical nightmare at the best of times and present a risk to the safety of the team in the wake of the pandemic.
Consider hosting smaller team events to minimise the risks associated with large gatherings and to make people feel more comfortable.
Check the government website for official COVID guidance and updates
While the government doesn’t currently have a limit or recommendation on the number of guests allowed per party, be wary of this and be conscious of the number of people invited, the less risk you pose for your guests.
Consider not allowing employees to invite plus ones, which may have been the norm in previous years, to further minimise the guestlist and potential risks.
In a year of the unexpected, one thing has come to be expected: change. As case numbers rise in the UK, it’s best to check guidelines for the most accurate information and to be as adaptable as possible.
Be mindful that the government guidelines may change, so regularly check its COVID advice for any updates.
Assessing current case levels as a party approach could be a helpful tactic, helping you to make an informed decision on how to best celebrate Christmas, whether that’s cancelling, delaying or limiting the number of guests you’re inviting.
For additional support and information on planning a Christmas party in 2021, seek an independent HR advisor for guidance.