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‘Tis the season to be (sensible while being) jolly

3 Mins

First there’s all the schmoozing you have to do with clients and contacts at other people’s Christmas parties.

But far more onerous are the decisions that have to be made about your own Christmas bash.

For starters, do you even have a party?

An argument for the affirmative is that they can be tax free. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales points out that companies are allowed a tax-free amount of £150 a head for soirées at this time of the year.

The ICAEW says the total should cover food, drink, accommodation and transport (if the employer pays for those), plus VAT, divided by the number of guests (which should include non-employees such as partners).

ICAEW head of medium issues Clive Lewis puts it nicely: “Businesses should make the most of the tax free amount and not just resort to some warm wine and plastic cups in the office.”

A staff Christmas party is also good for morale. As Charles Cotton, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reward and employment conditions adviser, says: “A little can go a long way in creating a better atmosphere within the workplace.”

Interestingly, the CIPD’s annual reward management survey shows more than 80 per cent of firms employing up to 29 staff will throw a Christmas party this year. Only half of those companies employing 5,000 staff will have a carousal.

There is, of course, a compelling argument against Christmas parties. From an HR perspective, they can be a bit of a nightmare. A Youmanage survey of 200 UK line managers found 77 per cent of respondents were concerned about having to deal with the post-party fallout.

Each year, organisations from accountants to the sexual health service issue warnings of the dangers of plying employees with too much “Christmas cheer”.

They make a valid point. I’m sure we’ve all got numerous examples of how excessive booze has fuelled inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas work shindig.

At best, that involves falling over on the dance floor or kissing in the corner. At worst, it can result in disciplinary action or serious injury.

What to do?

I reckon the cool head of the FD is needed to ensure the Christmas party doesn’t get out of hand. Obviously you should avoid (at all costs) actually organising the thing, but approach the party in the same way you approach your job.

  1. Ensure cost savings. Make sure the party is tax free;
  2. Recruit the right people to organise the party so you can concentrate on more important matters: having fun;
  3. Outsource the cleaning up;
  4. Challenge the CEO when he insists every second song is Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody; and
  5. Be strategic…and know when to call it a night.

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