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Christmas Party – Remember It For The Right Reasons

30 Nov
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Christmas, Employees, Health and Safety   |  No Comments

It is the last day of November. For many, this is payday, for others it is invoicing day and for some…. It is the official start of the festive season.

Over the years we have seen some pretty fantastic Christmas parties. We have also seen some lovely intimate low key affairs where the team come together and celebrate the past year and its successes.

While you are not operating a school, all employers have a legal responsibility and duty of care towards their staff and that is not just Monday – Friday 9 – 5, but includes work functions such as the Christmas party. While you may not want to organise the ‘personal’ life of your employees and may believe that they are all grown up enough to look after themselves, if an accident or incident happens and the employer has not taken due care, the employer can become liable. Ensure that you have considered and talked about all of the relevant issues with your staff before the party and they know what they are responsible for and what failure to comply might mean.

Here are some top tips for making sure your work Christmas party is one to remember rather than one you wish to forget:

  1. Make sure everyone is invited and made to feel welcome
    • remember not everyone celebrates Christmas, so how can you make it more inclusive?
  2. Think carefully about whether partners are invited and if so, who pays for them?
  3. Be mindful about your venue
    • Is it easy to get to / return from on public transport?
    • Can people stay over if they chose to?
    • Is there ample parking for those who prefer to drive?
    • If your team is widely spread, is it accessible to everyone and will expenses be paid to those who don’t live locally who wish to attend?
  4. Menu planning – LONG gone are the days where everyone will sit down to eat a traditional Christmas Dinner
    • Make sure you understand what your staff can and can not eat, from both a dietary and religious perspective.
    • Is there a vegetarian/vegan option?
    • Is there a free from option?
    • Are the Canapes clearly marked
    • Are the caterers and their staff carefully briefed – nut allergies are life-threatening and the impact of a careless caterer is not to be underestimated.
  5. Alcohol planning – I am not going to try to tell you that your event needs to be alcohol-free as that would just be Humbug at this time of year! However, there are some considerations
    • What is a reasonable amount of alcohol per person?
    • Who is paying for it?
    • Are people allowed to buy more for themselves once the ‘paid for’ bar has been used
    • Is anyone going to stop people drinking if and when they think they have had too much
  6. How are people getting home?
    • Are cabs booked in advance to take people home or is a local cab company on standby with sufficient cars?
    • Is a coach being arranged to drop people at a central point and if so, what happens from there?
    • Will someone be responsible for ensuring that no one is driving either their own or a company vehicle while under the influence of alcohol
  7. Are staff (and management) expected at work the next day – not every party can be on a Friday night and not every business is shut at the weekend
    • This is a case of one rule for all. No discrimination based on length of service or seniority in the business. If your business is open the next day, your staff need to be there in a fit state to work just like on any other day
      • If staff do not turn up – what is the impact?
      • If staff turn up too tired or unwell – what is the impact?
    • Will you allow people to book the ‘day after the night before’ off as a holiday and what is the impact on your business?
      • Will normal holiday booking procedures apply?
    • Managing the fallout – while we sincerely hope there is no fall out from your work Christmas party, many years of experience tells us otherwise. So what do you need to consider in managing the fallout?
      • Treating everyone equally and fairly
      • Following and complying with your own policies and procedures
      • Health and safety implications for employees, clients and other third parties
      • Financial damage
      • Reputational damage

I don’t mean to scare you, and many employers believe it will never happen to them, but it

can and it does. With over 25 years in HR and Management and as head of an HR practice for over 11 years, I never cease to be amazed by what I see and hear, especially around Christmas. I think I have seen it all and then something else happens and as HR, we often end up trying to pick up the pieces and keep our clients (the Businesses) out of trouble, helping them to make their workplace a better place to be.

As with all aspects of business life, Proper Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance. Plan your Christmas party, get advice if you need it but have an amazing festive celebration that ALL your staff remember for the RIGHT reasons which keeps them engaged in 2019.

Snow Days

01 Mar
by Donna Obstfeld, posted in Bad weather, Blog, Business Continuity, Contract of employment, employee rights, Health and Safety, pay, RIsk, Schools, snow, Video, Vlog   |  No Comments

 

How to manage staff when the English weather turns is always a topic for discussion among employers. In this video (one from our #AskDOHR series) we give employers different elements which they need to consider when making decisions about their business and whether or not to pay staff who fail to come to work due to bad weather, school closures or transport shut down.

The way in which you treat snow days will very much depend on your business. Certainly if you’re providing a service such as fire brigade, police, hospitals, district nurse, GP, or anything that’s critical,  you will have to have a business continuity plan for ‘snow days’.

However, there are lots of work environments such as offices, gardens, building sites, leisure centres, delivery drivers and factories  and as such, circumstances are going to be different for each one and for each type of business.

There are lots of elements you need to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to stay open:

  • Health & Safety – is the work environment safe – do you have heating and running water?
  • Health & Safety – can people reach work safely? If not, can you do anything to improve access such as gritting or sweeping paths?
  • Transport and Infrastructure – are buses and trains running? Not just to get people to work, but to get them home again as well.
  • Duration – How long is the bad weather due to last and can you put different plans in for different days? Perhaps the business could shut down for a day, but perhaps not for 2?
  • School Closures – It’s also very difficult to force people to come to work if they’ve got no childcare. While some children are old enough to be left at home, others will not be. Friends and family may all have their own snow issues and not be able to help out on a ‘snow day’ as they might otherwise be able to do.

 

There is no right and wrong way about how you deal with this. However, the first thing to do is to look at your contracts of employment. What options are available to you?

  1. pay them regardless of whether they make it into work
  2. unpaid leave for anyone unable to come to work
  3. allow them to use holiday (if they have any left) to be paid for their time off
  4. allow people to work from home (where business appropriate for them to do so)
  5. put people up in a hotel to enable them to reach work easily – again this will depend on their personal circumstances

Be sensible. Think about the value of your relationship with your staff. Think about the expectations of your clients. It’s a business decision and it doesn’t just come down to money. It also comes down to good will and relationships not only with your staff, but with your clients, suppliers and perhaps the community at large.

People are going to understand when everything else around you comes to a grinding halt. We’re on red and amber alerts across the country. Everybody is going to be aware of that. It’s about making an effort, it’s about doing the right thing. It’s about staff showing willing, offering to work at home, offering to come in. Would you allow them to bring a child into the workplace? Would that be appropriate if the school is closed but they can still get to work? It’s about getting a balance, it’s about give and take and it’s about relationships.

Look after your staff, they’ll be more motivated to support you. But there are times where you need your staff to turn up to work and failure to do so could cause massive implications for your clients or the community.

The decision ultimately is yours, you are the business owner, the buck does stop with you, but do what feels right and don’t put yourself in breach of your own contracts, policies and procedures.

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