Following the successful roll out of the vaccination scheme and the booster jabs picking up pace, what should employers bear in mind when arranging such seasonal social gatherings for their employees?
One of the many things the pandemic has taught us, is that human interaction is essential to many people – and so the prospect of colleagues meeting, socialising, and celebrating face-to-face will be met with great excitement and anticipation.
However, it is important to bear in mind that there are others within our workforces who will be nervous of these social situations – whether this is because they have medical concerns, or because they are simply not acclimatised to such situations after such a long period without.
Workplace parties and social gatherings are generally outside of an employee’s contracted hours and duties and, as a result, should not require compulsory attendance. Therefore, if an individual does not feel comfortable socialising or being in close physical proximity with colleagues, they could simply choose not to attend.
However, as an employer, it is natural to want to foster a workforce that is engaged, involved and inclusive. In order to accommodate for a range of preferences as we start to move out of our locked down world, it may be worth thinking about more inclusive and varied ways to celebrate. For example, instead of holding one big Christmas party for the whole workforce, could you accommodate smaller gatherings over a longer period? Or instead of a party, could you offer a series of hybrid events that accommodate both in-person and remote attendance?
After such a long period without the benefit of in-person social gatherings, in the excitement, it could be easy to forget the importance of setting expectations when it comes to the conduct of staff–both in and out of the workplace at workplace gatherings.
If you are arranging a post-pandemic company get together, it is important to remember that such events can be considered “in the course of employment” and as such, an employee’s standard of behaviour is expected to continue as it would when undertaking their day-to-day duties in the workplace. Indeed, the responsibility of an employer to look after the safety and wellbeing of staff also remains when organising Company related events.
In order that a company can help ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff at company events and celebrations, it is worth considering the following practical steps to ensure not only the safety of colleagues but also the general enjoyment of those in attendance:
Just as employers will be busy making arrangements for staff to meet socially again, team members themselves will also be keen to arrange their own gatherings. This brings about some interesting points for employers to consider.
If a social event is not arranged by or funded by the company but is organised entirely by staff themselves, it is less likely to amount to an event that takes place in the course of employment. However, employee conduct in such situations can still impact significantly on the day-to-day working life of colleagues and this potential impact should not be overlooked.
Inappropriate conduct outside of work, at a non-work-related event, can still find its way into the workplace and have a significant effect on an employee’s ability to perform their duties, as well as on working relationships between staff. This, in turn, can impact on performance and efficiency of the workforce.
As we emerge into the new normal, and with social gatherings becoming more frequent, perhaps now is the time for businesses to take the opportunity to review their HR and ER policies – such as disciplinary, grievance, and those relating to alcohol and drugs – in order that there are clear guidelines in place for dealing with such issues, should they arise.
Maintaining open communication with employees and/or employee representatives will help companies to gauge and manage any personnel issues which come about at this unprecedented time. From an employee relations perspective, it is important to understand the feelings of your workforce and to consider how you may wish to deal with these issues.
It’s our mission to advise and develop the employment law capability of HR professionals wherever we can, helping HR teams make a real commercial difference to their organisations. That way, you spend less time solving operational issues and more time actioning projects that drive far-reaching change in your company.
Call 0333 006 2929 or email email@example.com today to discover exactly how we can help you.
Senior solicitor, ESP Law Ltd
Jessica is a pragmatic employment solicitor and litigator with a range of experience in both private practice and in-house. Having qualified in 2008, she begun her career in a Trade Union firm and made the move to exclusively advising businesses over 10 years ago. Her breadth of experience includes advising clients in the retail, manufacturing and transport sectors and immediately prior to joining esphr, she worked as an in-house employment lawyer for a national care charity with over 5,000 staff.