The Christmas HR Hangover

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But sometimes with the best will in the world, Christmas can turn into a HR nightmare for employers.

We answer some FAQ so that you can avoid a killer HR hangover!


Be prepared!


Preparation and planning is the key to anything and having the right policies and procedures in place can make sure that you avoid a car crash. If you don’t have a policy in place to cover social events- you should! As an employer you have a duty of care towards your employees and if things do go wrong, then you need to be able to show that you took reasonable steps to prevent it from happening. In addition to having a policy in place, it is advisable to issue a memo to your employees ahead of the Christmas ‘get together’ to remind of them of what is expected and the risks of excessive alcohol consumption and harassment. Be very wary of allegations of harassment, make sure that you take all such incidents seriously and investigate them appropriately.


Am I responsible?


Ok, so you know you are responsible for what happens ‘in the course of employment’, but does that include the Christmas party as well? The answer is yes. So make sure that you keep a close eye on what is going on and don’t brush of any uncomfortable incidents as just a bit of ‘boozy banter’. In previous cases, the court has found that work social events are closely connected to work (well, they do involve a lot of the same people don’t they?). So, if there is a need to discipline an employee following their misconduct at the office party, you are able to do so. If the situation involves more than one person, make sure that you take a fair approach, do not to take sides!


Do I have to grant holiday requests?


No, you don’t! The usual holiday request rules apply, even during the festive period! Employees must give you the agreed amount of notice for requesting holiday, or it may simply work on a first come, first serve basis. Either way, you are able to refuse holiday requests for valid business reasons, but you have to make sure that you explain to the employee why you are refusing their request. The trick to avoiding disputes over holiday requests is to take a consistent and fair approach across the board, as soon as someone feels as though they are being treated less favourably, that’s where problem arise. One rule for all!


What if my employee doesn’t come into work or is late the day after the Christmas party?


If your contract of employment allows it, you are able to make deductions from their pay to make up for the missed time.


If you feel that the matter is so serious that you must take disciplinary action, then you should make sure that it is stated in your disciplinary policy that misconduct at social events may give rise to disciplinary action- by law you must have a disciplinary and grievance procedure in place, so you have one? Right?


You must make sure to be wary of genuine illness or any reasons that may give rise to a claim of disability discrimination. Innocent until proven guilty of course, but you do not have to be afraid to ask questions if you have your suspicions.


If after reading this, you feel that it may be time to have a look over your contract of employment and handbook, then we can do a free review for you, to see what’s missing. Get in touch with us on 0115 870 0150 or email


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