by Anne O’Connell, Founder and Principal at AOC Solicitors
1.Prevention is Better than Cure!
Always remember health and safety of staff and clients around this festive season. This should include arranging safe travelling options to and from the event and possibly the next morning also. It should also ensure safety notices and procedures at the venue and precautions to avoid the event getting out of hand e.g. time restrictions, alcohol serving time limits, quantity of free alcohol etc.
2. Remind Staff of What is Naughty and not Nice?
Before the Christmas Party, it is advisable to send a reminder to all staff that any inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated and will be subject to the disciplinary policy. Remind them to respect their colleagues and not to let alcohol blur their perception or result in inappropriate behaviour or conduct including sexual harassment. You should keep evidence of this reminder to assist in defending a possible claim of vicarious liability in respect of conduct of the employees.
3. Social Media Control
Circulate rules about posts and pictures on social media in respect of work events, reminding staff of posting anything that may put the company’s reputation into disrepute and to respect individual’s privacy rights.
4. Respect Different Cultures for Christmas
In the multi-cultural society that we now live in, due consideration and acknowledgment should be given to the different beliefs and religions that maybe present in your workplace.
5. Rules to Avoid Inappropriate Gifts at Work
A reminder to staff to take care with “Kris Kindle” presents, and make sure they are aware that a “funny present” is not the best idea to a work colleague and that such gifts may cause offence and might constitute harassment on grounds such as gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
6. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Don’t forget about employees who are absent on sick leave, carer’s leave or protected leave.
7. Charity Without Pressure
Be mindful not to put financial pressure on employees when encouraging charity donations.
8. Be Aware that Christmas is Not Merry for Everyone
It is important to ensure that all employees are made aware of the Employee Assistance Program or other support services should they need to speak to anyone.
9. Sick v. Hangover
There may be a few sore heads during the festive season. Ensure that you follow your sick leave policy and request sick certs for absences during the festive period. Consider asking employees to use annual leave days if the illness is self-inflicted. Remind staff not to drive to work if out the night before. Do not allow staff to attempt to work if in safety critical roles.
10. The After Party Issues
Do not delay addressing issues or allegations about what may have occurred at the Christmas party. You have a duty of care to all employees to ensure that these issues are addressed as soon as possible so that no-one is anxious about coming into work or considers such behaviour as acceptable.
If you are thinking of rewarding staff with a bonus this Christmas, it may be more beneficial to give staff gift vouchers or ‘non-cash benefit’ which can be given to staff to a €1000 maximum once off payment without attracting PAYE, USC or PRSI.
12. January Blues
It is worth giving your staff something to look forward to in the New Year to address the blues when returning to work. This may also reduce the number of absenteeism in the early weeks of January and create a more productive atmosphere.
About the author
Qualified as a Solicitor in 2001 and as a New York Attorney, Anne O’Connell, the Founder and Principal of AOC Solicitors, specializes in Employment Law. She holds an LLB Degree together with Diplomas in Employment Law and International Litigation and has practiced with the Chief State Solicitors Office and two top tier Irish Law Firms. Anne has acted in the largest international case taken by Ireland to date and also acted in a European case that led to the amendment to Ireland’s Constitution. Anne advises large multinational companies, semi-state companies, small businesses and employees in all areas of employment law, particularly issues that were likely to become contentious.
With over 19 years of employment law experience, Anne formed her own specialist boutique Employment Law Firm in 2017 and thus Anne O’Connell Solicitors was born.
Anne is very passionate about what she does and becomes vested in finding solution to her client’s issues.