‘Tis the season for festive cheer, but as HR departments gear up for office parties across the corporate landscape, employers are advised to tread carefully to avoid potential pitfalls that could turn the merriment into a managerial nightmare.

Love them or loathe them, office parties are a December staple for many businesses, notorious for unexpected blunders and potential PR disasters. As the holiday season approaches, a bit of sensible planning may prevent employers from facing the dreaded aftermath with faces as red as Rudolph’s nose.

  1. Don’t Force the Fun

Before sending out those glittering invitations, employers must consider the inclusivity of their plans. Compulsory attendance might not be appreciated by all, especially for those with different celebrations or financial constraints. Julia Fitzsimmons, Head of Employment Law at Midlands law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, urges employers to be mindful of diverse needs and ensure the chosen venue is accessible for all.

  1. Cheers – or Jeers

Alcohol-related issues often take centre stage at office parties. To avoid potential problems, consider hosting an alcohol-free event or at least designate alcohol-free tables. Clear ground rules on behaviour and ample soft drinks can help maintain a festive atmosphere without the risk of regrettable actions fuelled by too much holiday cheer. Catering for various dietary needs is also crucial to ensure everyone can partake in the festivities.

  1. Stamp Out Harassment

While cracker jokes might be part of the fun, employers must be vigilant about preventing harassment and abuse. Companies have been found liable at employment tribunals for failing to protect employees from inappropriate behaviour during Christmas parties. Establishing clear standards of conduct and promptly addressing any reports of harassment is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable celebration for all.

  1. The Day After the Night Before

Sore heads and unproductive mornings are almost inevitable after a night of celebration. Employers should communicate expectations regarding unauthorised absences and remind employees of their health and safety obligations, especially if their role involves driving or operating machinery.

  1. Going Viral

In the age of social media, a moment of indiscretion can quickly become a viral sensation. Companies are advised to have a robust social media policy in place to prevent any actions that could harm the company’s reputation. The policy should be clear about potential disciplinary actions for employees who breach these guidelines.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.