End of Year Party Precautions – Celebrations Without HR Investigations

As 2023 draws to a close, many Organisations around the country will be preparing for their End of Year Party.

While these occasions represent a great opportunity for Employers and staff to celebrate another successful year, there are some risks to bear in mind when Employees get together in a more relaxed environment.

Inappropriate behaviour is the most common complaint at an End of Year Party and this type of incident can have serious consequences on individual working relationships, the Organisation’s reputation as well as distracting leadership teams from their primary objectives.

On the other hand, the End of Year Party is often a key event for developing Employee relationships and fostering goodwill towards an Organisation. With many Employees now working remotely, this annual event also provides remote workers with a chance to meet colleagues in person.

To ensure this year’s celebrations don’t lead to HR investigations, Employers should take the following minimum precautions…

Acceptable Conduct

It can come as a surprise to some Employers to learn that they can be found vicariously liable for incidents that happen at work-related social events even when they occur off-site and outside working hours.

To successfully defend an Employee claim of vicarious liability, Employers must be in a position to demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the unwanted conduct from occurring. The first step involves ensuring that Employees understand the standard of conduct expected of them at work-related events. It is best practice to remind Employees prior to the event that their obligations under Dignity at Work and Ant-Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment policies apply equally to their behaviour at work-related social events (which can include after parties that follow on from the event).

The pre-party circular should include a gentle reminder that any incidents or allegations that arise will be treated as if they had occurred during working hours.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures to be drawn to Employees’ attention prior to the event could include:
Atendance at Work – To minimise the risk of no shows the day afer an End of Year Party
Email, Internet and Social Media – To ensure appropriate use of social media during and after the event
Dignity at Work – To remind Employees of the appropriate standards of behaviour and the relevant ant-bullying, harassment and sexual harassment provisions
Grievance and Disciplinary – To remind Employees that complaints or incidents will be investigated as a work-related grievance

Practcal Consideratons

It is a good idea not to put too much pressure on Employees to attend. Whether they have family responsibilities or other personal reasons for not wanting to attend, remind Employees that there is no obligation to attend the event.

With an increasingly diverse Irish workforce, many Organisations are likely to have staff that do no celebrate Christmas. To ensure all staff feel welcome, it may be more prudent to call the event the “End of Year Party” as opposed to the “Christmas Party” and to carefully consider the food and drinks that will be served. Vegans, teetotallers and Employees from various religious and cultural backgrounds may need to be accommodated.

Performance-related Discussions:
Team leaders and managers should avoid performance-related discussions with Employees. The End of Year party is not the appropriate venue for discussions in relation to promotion, salary or career prospects. While often well-intentioned, words of encouragement may be misinterpreted as commitments and lead to future disagreements.

Travel Facilities:
Remind Employees to consider how they can safely travel home from the party. This could include providing information on public transport routes, or taxi services in the area where the event is being held.

The Day After:
If Employees are scheduled to attend work the day after the party, remind Employees that attending for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol could endanger their own or another person’s health and safety at work and they may be subject to disciplinary action.

With so much disruption in the workplace in recent years, the End of Year Party represents one of the best opportunities for Employers to develop positive relations amongst staff in a relaxed setting. Employers with remote or hybrid staff in particular may wish to avail of this opportunity to welcome everyone to an in-person event. So once the right precautions are in place, everyone should celebrate!

To support development of new or revised Performance Management frameworks, upskilling Managers, and setting out a framework for success, please contact our team of experts in Adare HRM who can advise and guide your Strategic HR interventions. Contact Details: Phone (01) 561 3594 or email info@adarehrm.ie

If your Organisation needs advice, support, or guidance in relation to compliance requirements or any HR issues, please check out our website https://www.shannonchamber.ie/services/shannon-chamber-hr/ or contact Adare Human Resource Management call (01) 561 3594 or email info@adarehrm.ie