Staying Safe At The Christmas Party

Christmas party flashpoints

You can’t have failed to catch on to the fact that sordid goings on on the casting couches of Hollywood, down the dark corridors of Westminster, the recent coverage of the Ghislaine Maxwell case and reports of attacks on women just going about their daily lives have placed sexual harassment and safety firmly on the HR agenda.  And whilst the news focuses on female safety, this is not always just a female issue.

Most decent human beings are pretty familiar with what is and isn’t acceptable at the far end of the spectrum of assault or sexual harassment. In more everyday situations it’s not always easy to know where other people’s boundaries lie, and what might be friendly banter to one person, could be deeply unacceptable to another. When alcohol and Christmas joie de vivre are uncorked at work Christmas parties and other celebrations, inhibitions and self-awareness can be thrown out the window and the risk of incidents of sexual harassment, or plain old festive fisticuffs are much higher.  The Covid-19 backdrop adds yet another dynamic in respect of boundaries and considerations for employers from a health and safety perspective.

So before we get into the top practical tips for partying safely and responsibly, let’s get the elephant in the room covered in tinsel, baubles and flashy lights so you can clearly see it.

A party or event organised by an employer for its employees, even if it is offsite and outside of core working hours, is an extension of the workplace, and Companies are potentially liable for things that happen to, or the actions of , their employees.

There, it’s out there.

This could even extend to an unplanned after-party, particularly when senior leaders/owners join in and continue to pay for things.

Of course, there are caveats to this statement and each case will have it’s own merits,  but if you start from the understanding that liability exists, then you can plan, protect and prevent.


To help business leaders and employees keep to the right side of the line, ACAS issued some helpful Advice and Guidance on what Sexual Harassment in the workplace is, where the official boundaries are, and how to report or manage it. You can find it here.

This certainly is not the jolliest of topics at this time of year but at Metro HR we think it’s important to raise tricky issues with business leaders and employees in a preventative way, before issues set in. Proactive planning is great, so with that in mind, we have created a checklist of our top but practical tips for staying safe at the Christmas party, please share it far and wide….

But remember, if an incident occurs, early intervention is key, get in touch with us as soon as you can.  Issues of this nature need to be dealt with swiftly.

Christmas Party Safety Checklist

  • If you are the poor soul in charge of organising the Christmas party, don’t be afraid to remind employees that the staff handbook and policies around behaviour and conduct will remain in place at the Christmas bash, and to keep their ‘banter’ in check.
  • Be very clear about when the work Christmas Party starts and ends, and make sure everyone understands that when the party ends, the Company is not responsible, and therefore the Company liability has ended.
  • Understand, follow and promote the following of any Covid guidance or restrictions, as already explained your duty of care for Health and Safety extends to the doo, before any group event it would be helpful to encourage lateral flows tests so you don’t end up with a spreader event.
  • It’s tempting to go wild in the aisles when the Company are paying (particularly after the last two years), but it’s a good idea to drink responsibly and retain your judgement – at least squeeze a soft drink in between each of the alcoholic ones.
  • If food isn’t provided, eat before you get to the party. Drinking on an empty stomach can have a fast effect.
  • Stay with other people, don’t put yourself in the position of being worse for wear and alone, and therefore vulnerable.
  • Make sure you know how you are getting home, book your transport in advance, don’t allow yourself to get stranded. Organising transport at 2am with drunk colleagues is a tough job.
  • Save an ‘ICE’ (In Case of Emergency) contact in your phone – this is a well-recognised term used by the emergency services, just in case.
  • Keep some money somewhere other than your bag or wallet, in case they get pinched, or you lose them.
  • Be mindful and look out for work colleagues. If you think they might have got themselves into an awkward situation, or that they may be subject to some unwelcome attention, step in to divert the conversation or attention.
  • Try not to overstep boundaries with a Secret Santa gift, if you are wondering whether it is appropriate or not, then it probably isn’t, be sure the humour will be well received.
  • Don’t let loose on social media about your boss, your work colleagues, customers or the company, especially after a few drinks. Even if you are not using a work device it could still be a disciplinary issue. Comments that are abusive, offensive or discriminatory will be treated as a serious matter.
  • Be mindful that even though you are off-site and away from the work place, you are still representing the company. Any inappropriate behaviour or actions that could damage the reputation of your company or cause upset or concern to a work colleague could make you liable to disciplinary action.
  • The camera never lies, we all have devices that take selfies and photos, and CCTV is everywhere, pictures can be online in seconds, don’t get caught out in an embarrassing situation.

Last but not least, thank the person for doing all of the organising.  They have probably had to re do the seating plan countless times, listened to moaning over menu options, timings, seating plans bla bla bla, it’s meant to be a fun event!

Handling a situation that has gone wrong

If you do happen to find yourself the target of unwanted behaviour or in the middle of a highly-charged situation, there are three steps to dealing with it:

  1. Tell the person their behaviour or conduct is unwelcome.
  2. Remove yourself from immediate risk – find colleagues, or call someone over to help.
  3. Tell someone.

Don’t be the person that everyone is talking about in the office come Monday morning, for the wrong reasons.

If all else fails and you end up with an HR issue on your hands after the Christmas party, think of us as your guardian angels. We can help deal with the issue and get you back to running your business in no time.

Or, for more hands-on, practical advice on implementing a successful HR Strategy, why not  download our HR Self-audit ChecklistWe use this checklist when we are working with new clients to identify what needs to be done to change a ‘functional’ HR approach to a fantastic one.  Or perhaps you would like to have a chat about your upcoming HR plans and challenges – book one of our free 30-minute discovery calls.

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