The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is warning business owners to be aware of seasonal dangers that could potentially leave them with "a nasty financial hangover long after the decorations have been taken down".
"With their mix of drink, high spirits and merriment, Christmas parties are still the number one source of potential problems," argues FPB business adviser, Joanne Eccles.
To make sure you and your staff remember Christmas 2013 for all the right reasons, the FPB advises business owners to:
- "Avoid pressurising staff to attend Christmas parties. Some staff may not want to attend due to factors such as faith or abstinence from drink."
- "Let staff attending parties know in advance what acceptable standards of behaviour are expected of them. Make it clear that your usual disciplinary policies apply, even if the party is being held away from the workplace."
- "Watch out for drug use! Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is an offence for an employer to permit or even ignore drug use on their premises. Drug use in the workplace may also constitute a breach of health and safety regulations."
- "Make it clear to staff if they are expected to turn up for work as normal the following day, hangover or not. Also don't forget to by example – research suggests that senior managers are more likely to call in sick the day after a Christmas party."
- "Keep it clean and don't let the tipple flow too freely. Saucy gifts and games could easily lead down the dangerous path to a tribunal, while too much alcohol could spark arguments and fights, leaving employers dealing with tricky disciplinary issues."
- "Business owners should also remember to act professionally when socialising with staff and not let anything slip which they wouldn’t do in the office, such as personal opinions of other employees."
However, putting on a Christmas party does have "an upside for employers", notes the FPB. It says up to £150 per head of the cost of holding the party is an allowable tax deduction and VAT can also be recovered on staff entertaining expenditure.
"No-one wants to put a dampener on the festive spirit and Christmas parties are great for boosting workplace morale and allowing staff to let their hair down," adds Eccles. "But business owners need to take some important precautions if they want to guard against potential litigation.
"Most of the regulations which govern the normal working day also extend to the Christmas party, wherever it might be held, so employers need to ensure they're not leaving themselves open to claims, complaints and time-consuming employee disputes."