The joy of Christmas & the workplace!

I love Christmas but not neccessarily in the workplace as it can be a real minefield to manoevre & in my role I am often having to clear up the mess into the New Year & that is never a great way to start a new year.

The main obstacle is often the Christmas party & I am not talking about organising the venue, decising what to wear or whether partners being included – I am referring to the impact of alcohol on colleagues – especially when it has been paid for by the company. The number of times I have had to deal with inappropriate sexual advances, loose lips (people telling their bosses, colleagues or customers what they really think about them), theft/lost property, indecent pictures & making sure inebriated individuals get home safely are too many to mention.

One of my earlier cases of inappropriate sexual advances led to a dismissal of a senior manager which in turn went all the way to tribunal – which we lost on a small technicality but what was worse was the panel stating that the company had contributed to the incident as they have provided the alcohol & we hadn’t taken that into consideration when making our decision. The employee’s representative argued (successfully) that the senior manager would never have had the courage to act as he did if the company had not got him drunk. I know we supplied the alcohol but I don’t remember anyone force feeding it to him.

Another incident involved a drunk employee who injured himself by sitting on a photocopier with his trousers around his ankles. I will leave it to your imagination as to what he was trying to do. Needless to say, that created an interesting entry in the Accident Book.

Other obstacles include:

  • The giving & receiving of gifts – the secret santa has gone some way to helping that – provided you have a low limit in place but what about those people who don’t celebrate Christmas – how do you ensure that their religious beliefs are not ignore?
  • Decision to close between Christmas & the New Year – do staff have to retain holidays to cover the shutdown. Is that documented in your holiday procedures/policy? What if staff don’t have enough holidays left?
  • Drinking at lunch time – are staff allowed to have a drink if they are attending an event with a client or customer?
  • The Bribery Act – what gifts do you allow staff to accept from customers or suppliers? Do you have a Gifts & Hospitality Policy? If not, why not? In one organisation, I used to work at we did get quite large gifts from suppliers so we had a policy of pooling all the gifts, breaking some of them up (like the large hampers) & then drawining names out of a hat on the last day of work so that they could be spread amongst all the staff as opposed to the more senior & well known individuals.

So, my request this Christmas is if you are organising a work’s Christmas Party please beware of having a free bar, avoid photocopiers & make sure that all staff can get home safely.

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