Christmas is fast approaching with all the things that normally accompany it; decorations, secret Santa’s and office parties! It’s a time for celebration and fun for many, but a potential HR nightmare for the unwary. Here are a few pointers that may help you through the festive period and avoid some HR & H&S pitfalls.
Christmas Decorations – a few simple rules:
When hanging Christmas decorations, ensure the correct equipment is used and only by those who are trained e.g. use appropriate ladders / access equipment rather than standing on chairs / desks / tables. Falls from height could cause a broken leg (and we don’t mean the chair / table leg either!).
Make sure any display decorations don’t obstruct safety equipment such as smoke detectors, walkways or fire exists or obscure important safety signs/notices or emergency lighting. Also make sure they do not pose a fire hazard by being close to heaters or any other form of ignition. The Christmas lights should of course be PAT tested. Were they safely tucked in their box when the last tests were done and have been missed?
Think twice about hanging up mistletoe. It won’t take long for you to realise that these days it is not appropriate for anything to be endorsed by the employer that encourages what might well be unwanted physical contact or an approach that has an over familiar and possible sexual harassment connotation.
Having a ‘bit of a do’ this Christmas?
Official Company / Department Christmas parties are a rich source of employment law horror stories, from pranks that went too far, to complaints of being groped in the stationery cupboard. Where the ‘works do’ is arranged by work, paid for by work and attended by employees and sometimes partners / family, this is likely to be seen legally as an extension of the workplace. This can render the employer vicariously liable for incidents that occur!
Whilst talk of the recession lifting is encouraging us all, the official Christmas party may still be ‘off the agenda’ for many. When colleagues organise their own ‘bit of a do’, without us wanting to appear to be part of the ‘bah humbug brigade’ we do need to point out that colleague ‘get togethers’ could also be deemed an extension of work. Even though not paid for by work, depending on the facts, the Employer could be liable for any unfortunate events at that function!
Just think about the potential for the following: -
someone says something they don’t mean (or perhaps would not say if sober) which upsets colleagues; or
someone ‘tries it on’ with a colleague. The ‘advance’ may not be welcomed and could amount to sexual harassment; or
two employees argue and fuelled with alcohol, it turns into a fight; or
an employee drives home over the legal limit
So what should you do?
Whilst nothing is simple these days, just take a few straight forward precautions.
When inviting staff to the office party, include a comment reminding them that it is a ‘Company event’ and they should bear in mind that they are representing the company and that the usual standards apply. In other words, they are expected to behave. Ask them to act sensibly and do not do anything that damages the reputation of the organisation or upsets or offends colleagues or anybody else.
We hope that these words don’t subdue your celebrations too much and that you have a very happy and hassle free Holiday Season. We hope we haven't come across as being overly 'bah humbug' and indeed we are looking forward to our Christmas 'Do' this Friday (the thirteenth - thankfully we are not superstitious) – hopefully we will all be bright eyed and bushy tailed by Monday.
If you need any more information about the potential pitfalls during the Festive Season please give us a call on 08456 446006.
Health & Safety
Personnel / HR
The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.
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