The festive season is once more upon us and discussions about the Christmas party are probably in full swing, if not already agreed. While staff might be full of enthusiasm for the event, as employers, you need to take a slightly more serious approach. So here are some tips:
The Christmas Party
As employer you are liable for the conduct of your employees at a Christmas party organised by your company.
Employers need to make sure employees understand the conduct expected of them at a company Christmas party, especially in terms of behaviour towards each other, other customers and the staff of the venue.
It is advisable to remind staff to drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation.
A recommended step is to arrange transportation for employees to and from the event to reduce the likelihood of drink-driving and help ensure that employees get home safely. This is especially important when the employer provides alcohol at the party.
It is also worth bearing in mind that any discussions that take place during the company Christmas party regarding work should not be taken as meaningful. If ‘promises’ are made they are rather more likely to be regarded as statement of intent.
It is advisable not to discuss career matters or remuneration with employees during the company Christmas party, as words of encouragement and good intentions can end up being misinterpreted.
The Morning After
As an Employer you are required to provide as far as is practicable, a safe place of work. This obligation extends to employees who are required to work the day after the Christmas party, in particular where employees are required to operate equipment or have driving jobs. An employee should not be at work if under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If this is included in the terms & conditions or in the employees’ handbook, employers should tell all employees that the employer has the right to consider undertaking tests for drug and alcohol for employees who are rostered to work following the Christmas party and if an employee fails this test, action in accordance with the employer’s disciplinary policy, may be pursued.
Social, and Not So Social
No employer wants to discover unauthorised images or video footage from the company Christmas party streaming across social media for all the wrong reasons.
If you don’t have a social media policy in place, now is the perfect time to get one and make sure all employees are aware of it, and the consequences of any breaches, especially in terms of data protection and potential breaches of bullying and harassment policy, and damage to the reputation of your business.
Under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, there are three public holidays over the Christmas period; Christmas Day (25 December), St. Stephen’s Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day (1 January). Employees who qualify for public holiday benefit are entitled to one of the following:
• A paid day off on the public holiday
• An additional day of annual leave
• An additional day's pay
• A paid day off within a month of the public holiday
Most employees are entitled to paid leave on public holidays. One exception is part-time employees who have not worked for their employer for at least 40 hours in total in the 5 weeks before the public holiday.
The 1997 Act provides that an employee is entitled to ask his/her employer at least 21 days before a public holiday, which of the alternatives, above, will apply. If an employer fails to respond to the employee at least 14 days before the public holiday, the employee will be entitled to take the actual public holiday as a paid day off.