How to avoid Christmas Party problems

A Christmas party can often boost morale, increase employee satisfaction and promote team building.
Preparation is key to a successful Christmas party!


Think twice about mistletoe at your Christmas party, whilst it may appear to be innocent fun, mistletoe may increase the risk of sexual harassment claims. This applies even if your Christmas party is held outside working hours and not in the office. The party is still a work event meaning employers are likely to be vicariously liable for acts of their employees (particularly if you organised and funded the event) unless you take reasonable steps to prevent those acts occurring. If a complaint is made during or after the Christmas party, you should follow your usual disciplinary policy and investigate the complaint thoroughly.

Employers owe their employees a duty to take reasonable of care towards their health and safety, therefore if you ask employees to decorate the office you need to provide them with the appropriate equipment to do so, for example providing step ladders in order to ensure employees do not use swivel chairs to stand on. On a similar note if you hold the Christmas party in the office, dancing on desks or the like could cause damage not only to the employee but to the employer’s property. Make it clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated or that certain parts of the office are out of bounds during the party.


Employees need to be aware that the Company policies on harassment and discrimination continue to apply when socialising with work colleagues. Ensure employees know the consequences of breaching such policies. The employer continues to be liable for the acts of their employees when socialising with each other. Employers are also responsible for harassment by third parties. Third parties at a Christmas party could includ entertainers and bar staff.


Remember their will be employees who do not drink alcohol, perhaps for religious reasons or otherwise. Therefore ensure you supply plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Also if there will be any employees attending the Christmas party who will be under the age of 18, ensure you keep an eye out to make sure they do not drink alcohol.
If employees are expected to be in work the next day, remind them that disciplinary action could be taken of they fail to attend due to over indulging at the Christmas party. Equally if you are having a Christmas lunch let employees know whether they will be expected to return to work in the afternoon. If you have employees operating machinery then you should emphasise that alcohol will not be permitted.


If you are providing food for your employes, remember that different religions and beliefs cannot eat certain foods. The best way to avoid offending any employees is to ensure you always offer appropriate options for vegetarians, vegans and those who cannot eat specific foods, i.e beef or pork.  It is also advisable, where possible, to offer an alternative to employees with allergies such as wheat, and lactose.

Loose lips

Discussions had at a Christmas party could come back to haunt you.  In 2005 a claim was filed by an employee after a Manager had made a promise at the Christmas party that his salary would be increased to match another colleague within two years.  After two years the employee was not on the same salary and so the employee resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. The employment appeal tribunal eventually decided that the Manager did not intend to enter into a legally binding commitment at the Christmas party.  However, this was an expensive lesson for the employer to learn which could easily have been avoided if the Manager had not discussed remuneration at the Christmas party.

After the party 

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees therefore if an employee appears to have drunk too much, the employer should take responsibility.  Practically it would be sensible to arrange for the party to end before public transport stops running or to provide the numbers of local taxi companies and encourage employees to use them.  Another option (depending on cost) would be to provide a mini bus to take employees back to a place where they will be able to get home easily (i.e a railway station, or the office).

Finally have fun knowing that by following these simple steps you have organised a hassle free Christmas party for all to enjoy!