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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Party)

“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid!” sang Bob Geldof and friends back in 1984. However is this always the case when it comes to the staff Christmas party?

Work parties are great for bonding and boosting morale, and while you can’t control staff behaviour, you can make sure you safeguard your practice - by avoiding unnecessary sick days and employment tribunals.

A little too much Christmas cheer...

It’s generally a good idea to plan company parties for the weekend, but Christmas is a time filled with social events. Staff might often find themselves sipping mulled cider at Christmas markets on a Tuesday or catching up with family and friends over wine on a Thursday.

Many HR professionals agree that December’s ‘over-indulgence’ is a big cause of absences. While you don’t want staff working while they are not fit to, employees should be urged to take annual leave if they know they might drink too much at a weeknight party, or otherwise make sure that they don’t over-indulge.

A hangover is not a valid excuse for a sick day just because it’s Christmas! Make sure staff are aware that ‘duvet days’ are not acceptable and could result in disciplinary action.

Staying on the side of the angels

It’s important to remember that if your party takes place outside of the workplace, employment laws still apply. When an employee attends a function organised by either the employer or another colleague, the employer is still responsible for their actions.

Drunken behaviour is the root cause of many a tribunal claim, so make sure staff members understand that inappropriate behaviour is unacceptable. You can do this by issuing a quick statement with the details of the venue, timings, menu, and dress code, along with a few ground rules.

Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd, an employment law case that made the news recently, confirmed that an employer can be judged vicariously liable for injuries caused at an impromptu work ‘afterparty’.  The case may be of particular interest to practices as it concerns a small business.

So what can Practice Managers take away from this?

While there is no way of dictating what goes on at staff parties, make sure employees are mindful of the fact that they still represent the practice and that inappropriate behaviour can result in disciplinary action. Here are a few key points to bear in mind:

To access the FPM Christmas Party Policy, members can head to the Policy and Procedure Library. Plus, if you’re dealing with a tricky HR issue, First Practice Management members can contact our HR Helpline for support via our email helpline at

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