Office Parties - A Reminder

It’s that time of year again. With the party season almost upon us, it seems appropriate to provide a reminder of the standards of behaviour that firms need to maintain during any seasonal festivities, whether these are held in or out of the office.

The office party can quite often be a headache for HR – most people will have heard stories of parties that have gone wrong. In fact, we published an article last year that highlighted how ill-judged behaviour can have disastrous consequences.

At this time of year, it’s important for employers to manage the risks of staff misconduct and grievances. Employers should remind all employees, in writing, – including managers and directors – that they have a duty to behave in a civilised way towards their colleagues (and anyone else). It should also be made clear that any misbehaviour will be dealt with via the firm’s disciplinary policy.

Employers should consider the diversity of the workforce. This will include providing events catering for different religions, providing non-alcoholic drinks, considering various dietary requirements etc. Staff should also not be made uncomfortable by being forced to attend the work’s party.

Employers also need to remind their employees that normal standards of behaviour apply, even if events are held outside of the office. The venue is to be considered an extension of the workplace and the employer’s duty of care still applies – so responsibility should not be forgotten. A badly managed office party can have the opposite effect intended and be damaging for organisations – including even reputational damage if stories are reported in the media.

It is also worth mentioning, of course, that such standards should be upheld - and expectations of behaviour understood - all year round.

With the introduction of SM&CR on the 9th of December now very close, organisations need to set the tone from the top, in order to promote healthy cultures throughout the workplace. SM&CR aims to increase personal accountability throughout firms, from the most senior staff to the newest inductee. The office party should reflect a healthy and inclusive organisational culture – it should still be fun and inclusive and, of course, employees deserve to enjoy themselves, but it should not be viewed as an excuse to drop standards.

About the author

Kate is the chairman and co-founder of RWA and has worked for the company for nearly 20 years. She is a fan of developing practical, workable, business-led policies and procedures. Kate has specialist training experience within the financial services sector, including major general insurers, and the Lloyd’s underwriting and broking market. She has researched and developed numerous training programmes, both for commercial and in-house use. She has extensive experience of developing in-house and public training programmes for business skills, including Diversity, Employment Law, Management and Leadership, Motivation, Coaching and Feedback, Communication Skills and EQ.

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