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The Corporate Christmas Party -- How to Avoid New Year HR Headaches!

While it is true that many companies first get in touch with us following an incident at a corporate party, many of the incidences could have been avoided with a little forward planning. Don't expect the worst -- just prepare to avoid it
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A snog, a punch up, a groping, and a black eye: a good night out, or a post-Christmas party human resources nightmare?

Unfortunately, the fear of such incidences occurring has led many employers to cancel their Christmas parties this year. I have heard every reason in the book, from fears about banged heads on a bouncy castle, to a potential salmonella outbreak wiping out everyone on their team.

This is a real shame, because your employees are likely to have worked harder than ever this year. With fears of redundancies, money worries at home and stretched human resources at work, many people have had to up their productivity levels and work a lot of overtime this year to keep businesses ticking over and earn their keep.

Forward thinking employers understand this, and know that rewarding employees for hard work pays dividends in productivity and morale throughout the rest of the year. The corporate Christmas party is an event that many look forward to all year, so while everyone is in good festive spirits, do take the opportunity to celebrate your staff and recognize their achievements.

Don't Expect the Worst -- Just Prepare to Avoid It

While it is true that many companies first get in touch with us following an incident at a corporate party, many of the incidences could have been avoided with a little forward planning.

Your staff spend more time with each other than they probably do with their partners and families. The same tensions occur at work and can simmer all year, so it is unsurprising that when alcohol is added these tensions can come to head. Over the years, we've dealt with everything from injury claims for broken legs to grievances from female employees regarding trips to strip clubs and disciplinaries for employees involved in punch ups. Sorting these things out can be costly, time consuming and a huge drain on resources in the new year when you should be focusing on the year ahead.

But don't go all "Scrooge" thinking that a party is not worth it! Anything worth doing takes a small amount of time to get right -- a little up front effort will ensure a fun and reduced-risk party for everyone.

How Do You Plan a "Safe" But Fun Corporate Christmas Party?

Take the time to review existing employee conduct policies and make sure they cover you for every eventuality. Now is the time to remind everyone about them, along with your company values about respect and courtesy towards one another. Communicate clearly and concisely so people know where they stand and what is expected of them.

Be motivating but firm about arrangements. Advise staff where they should go if they have questions, give an emergency number for the night and clearly state what will happen if they don't turn up the next day or what to do if they are sick.

The Corporate Christmas Party Build Up -- How Do You Position It to Staff?

Think about how the event is positioned. It may be that times are so tough a village hall and "bring your own food" affair is more appropriate. Make sure that the party caters to everyone's tastes and needs and isn't just based around drinking! Accept you cannot please all of the people all of the time but try to meet the majority.

Include staff in the planning of the event, so that people feel consulted. But don't make people feel like they have to come if it's not their thing or they would rather spend time with family.

What About Talking About Christmas Parties on Social Media?

Be rational about employees using social media to discuss the Christmas party. You wouldn't be able to stop them from talking about it in the pub, so it would be inappropriate to police every comment online! Some comments will be generally harmless banter but it is worth monitoring what people are saying in case it turns from general gossip into either bullying or bringing the company into disrepute. Don't be paranoid -- the vast majority of employees will act appropriately and enjoy the event! Just casually remind everyone of the staff social media policy and what constitutes appropriate behaviour both on and offline.

Have Fun, but Stay Safe

Remind your staff to look after each other and make provisions for taxis home, etc. It's common sense, but is worth reiterating a couple of weeks before the event.

Plan for a safe event, but don't let fears about incidents ruin the fun of it. Remember that the Christmas party is about rewarding your staff for all their hard work and giving them an opportunity to relax and enjoy the festivities. Staff that are happy and feel valued, appreciated and looked after by their employers are generally not the kind of staff that are looking for a way to fleece you with litigious claims!

If you've got any concerns about your Christmas party, seek advice before something goes wrong to avoid any new year HR headaches.