With the TV awash with seasonal adverts and restaurants rapidly becoming fully booked for staff celebrations, there’s no doubt many organisations have started their count-down to Christmas.


Whether you’re planning inhouse celebrations or organising a company “do” at an outside venue, now is the time to begin preparing for what is to come, and this includes making staff aware of what behaviour is acceptable at such times, and what is not.


The Christmas party should be a chance to celebrate and reward everyone for their hard work throughout the year, but unfortunately, it also comes with the opportunity for disaster.


As an employer, you have a duty of care towards your employees, even if the celebrations take place outside of normal hours and off-site. This means that you could be held responsible for discriminatory acts by employees. Ensuring that everybody is aware of the policy on harassment will therefore help to protect you if an incident occurs.


Your office party should be inclusive of all your staff. Particular care needs to be taken to ensure absentees are included, even employees on family leave or with long term illness for example.


You should also carefully choose your event’s date and venue, to make sure it is suitable for all and to prevent any harassment. The local pub, for instance, may not be suitable for practising Muslims and Friday nights will cause problems for Orthodox Jewish employees.


It is important to ascertain whether or not some of your employees have religious needs with regards to food, if there are any vegetarians or vegans, and if anyone has any food intolerances. If organising the catering yourselves, make sure you have arranged for the food to be kept in a hygienic and temperature-controlled environment.


Non-alcoholic drinks must be available, and if any of the attendants are under 18, someone should be appointed to look after him or her: even outside of working hours, this is a work do and they are your responsibility.


Supervisors or managers may need to intercede and have a quiet word where excessive consumption of alcohol looks likely to lead to loud or aggressive behaviour. Reminding your staff on the strict law on drink-driving, arranging mini-bus transport or providing taxi numbers is always a good idea.


Employers should also be aware of the risks of social media. It is great to have reminders of the excellent time had by all at company events, however, employees need to understand that even when attending social functions, the need to adhere to your policy on the use of social media.


This includes recording and posting images of others at such events, and what effects those images may have on the individual and the organisation.


Activities that violate any company policy can subject an employee to disciplinary action or dismissal. So, to prevent any disaster, it is prudent to draw up a simple code of conduct for your Christmas party, so that everyone is clear what is expected of them, and what is not.


With just a little forethought and planning, you can ensure your Christmas party is a success!