An Employer’s Guide to Christmas

20 Nov

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas and most people will have started planning for the festive period. For some, that means starting their shopping, planning their dinner or buying a big tub of chocolates from the supermarket. However, whilst Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for many, it can leave employers saying “bah humbug” if you fall foul of tricky HR problems that the season can bring.

It’s always worth preparing and so in the spirit of giving, we thought we’d provide a quick guide for employers before you step into Christmas unprepared.

Mistletoe and Wine

The Christmas Party is an event for everyone to look forward to, unless you own a business or work in HR. If that’s the case, you often anticipate a headache the day after that has nothing to do with how much booze you drink. On the subject of alcohol, employers need to ensure that you do not give employees a “free for all” on the drink and remind them what sort of behaviour is expected from them. If you don’t, you may find it hard to discipline staff for any alcohol-fuelled issues that arise. In the past, Tribunals have decided that employers have encouraged bad behaviour by providing an unlimited supply of free drinks.

Employers must also ensure that nobody is left out of the celebrations and that all staff, irrespective of age, sex, disability or religion are given every chance to attend. However, you should never insist that people attend if they do not wish to – employees may have a number of reasons for not wanting to attend that could cause issues for the employer should they subject their staff to a detriment for not participating.

In terms of the mistletoe, it may be very difficult to stop employees getting “friendly” with each other at the Christmas party, but more senior employees should be discouraged from doing so with people they have authority over. It may also be a good idea to remind employees that any “friendliness” needs to be welcomed by the other party or you could face a sexual harassment claim. Make sure you have strong policies in force and that you take any complaints seriously.

All I Want for Christmas

If trying to find the perfect present for the loved ones in your life isn’t enough of a challenge for you, and you want to buy a present (under a fiver!) for the lady in accounts who you’ve only spoken to twice in 7 years, then you may wish to participate in Secret Santa.

Again, if staff are participating in this, employers may wish to remind them of what isn’t an appropriate gift. Whilst you may think that giving a gift of a sexual nature may be a laugh, it could find both the employee and the employer on the wrong end of a sexual harassment claim in the wrong circumstances. Similarly, any gifts that can be deemed to be offensive or bullying may mean that the sprouts aren’t the only thing in hot water.

Driving Home for Christmas

At this time of year, holidays over the Christmas period can be a hot topic for businesses that remain open. Employers should first try and encourage staff to sort out the arrangements themselves to help them find a solution that suits them all. However, if they cannot, then you need to ensure that holidays are sorted out fairly. Employers should never make decisions based on whether the employees have young children or are of the Christian faith as this may give rise to claims of discrimination.

Need some advice?

If employee problems are making you feel lonely this Christmas, Thomas Carroll employ dedicated employment advisers who will be able to ease the pressure and allow you to concentrate on having a wonderful Christmastime. Get in touch with us on 02920 853794 or by emailing

When Tribunals go wrong for employers, it can be extremely costly to a business. However, providing that you have followed all of our advice, our insurance cover will pay both your legal expenses in defending a claim and any compensation that the employee may be awarded. Therefore, you won’t be left wondering whether a bumper pay-out will make this your last Christmas in business.