19th November 2020
The workplace Christmas party is something that is loved by some and loathed by others. But this year, under strict government guidance, it is highly unlikely that any workplaces will be able to enjoy a festive get together to celebrate.
Under the latest guidelines group gatherings are banned and the hospitality sector has been forced to close. There is hope that restrictions will be eased to allow for festive celebrations to take place and government announcements will take place before the UK lockdown is lifted, as proposed, on the 2 December.
Without knowing what the restrictions will be it is difficult to plan a workplace Christmas gathering. But it is very unlikely that groups of more than 6 will be able to meet in December at this point.
Business owners and HR professionals will need to think outside of the box this year in order to thank their teams for what has been a trying year.
In the absence of a staff ‘do’, employers should consider some other ways they can celebrate or thank staff for their efforts and, of course, have some festive fun.
Some ideas include:
According to the Centre for Mental Health, at least half a million more people in UK may experience mental ill health as a result of Covid-19. Employees who have continued to work during challenging times, who have had to quickly adapt to new procedures, the wearing of PPE or being isolated working from home really deserve to be shown some appreciation. Often the workplace Christmas party is a good opportunity for the people at the top to show their thanks for their team’s hard work throughout the year.
In the absence of a Christmas party it is important to give some thought to how you can thank or show gratitude to your employees. Often it does not need to be a grand gesture, a small token of appreciation can go a long way. A firm-wide email acknowledging the difficult circumstances and thanking employees is a good start. Personally, thanking staff or presenting them with a small gift (for example, a bottle of wine, a Christmas pudding or some chocolates) and a hand written Christmas card is good way of making people feel appreciated, especially if you, as an employer, take time to recognise their achievements from this year.
With many businesses having a difficult year and facing some financial uncertainty for the future, some companies will take the view that it would be irresponsible to spend out on lavish gifts, bonuses or attempt a Christmas party this year.
Instead firms may decide to postpone the celebrations and organise a company get-together next year, perhaps in the form of a Summer BBQ event, that allows for outside social distancing if we are still navigating the virus then.
It is worth noting that whilst there is no specific allowance for Christmas parties, HMRC does provide tax exemptions for annual staff events up to the limit of £150 (including VAT) per employee.
Usually the festive period can cause headaches for HR teams who worry about the consequences of issues arising at the work Christmas party. Cancelling the event, however, may not relieve employers of all their concerns. It is still worth being mindful of your obligations as an employer and be careful not to offend or discriminate anyone from the alternative arrangements you decide to put in place this year.
It is also worth considering how to manage employee behavior at a virtual Christmas party, as employers will still have responsibility. If you are holding a virtual event it is best practice to send out a note beforehand addressing expected behavior, even if a businesses is not providing alcohol directly for employees in attendance, they could still be accountable for any drunken behavior, actions or issues arising from a virtual event. A further problem with a virtual event is the potential for the party to be recorded or shared online much easier.
For example, some of your staff may have religious beliefs where it would be inappropriate to thank them with alcohol or Christmas cakes. A disabled member of staff may feel victimised if an alternative event does not take into consideration reasonable adjustments and/or does not disabled employees to participate. If in doubt it is worth getting feedback from your employees.
If you are facing any employment law issues or need some advice, then please get in touch with our Employment Law Team. Call 01256 844888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our online chat assistant.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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