Christmas parties used to be a fun occasion that the majority of staff looked forward to and inevitably one or two regretted.Bosses, on the whole, could look forward to rewarding their staff and getting to know them a bit better in a more informal atmosphere. On top of that, there was the opportunity to enjoy, albeit with a private snigger, a considerable amount of amusement over who had done what (and, quite often, with whom). They have now become – as with so much else in our lives that is dominated by rules and regulations on personal behaviour – yet another minefield covered by horrendous legislation and full of deep pitfalls where the boss can be sued. Wherever you go on your witty festive jaunt, it is now deemed your duty to ensure the countless health and safety and HR related demands are met in full. Holding a Christmas party is inviting a court case. Everything firstly has to be viewed and covered by risk assessments. This includes everything from decorations to behaviour – is anyone going to hurt themselves hanging up tinsel? Are they likely to stay safe when drunk? Will they get home safely? You make yourself especially popular with the managers you insist will not only attend but will stay sober to monitor everyone. Entertainment must be carefully monitored. Raffles are a minefield for fear of any prizes giving offence (especially food or drink). Even the music must be carefully selected for a mix through the ages for fear of age discrimination. You must quench any sign of enthusiasm by circulating a strongly worded memo to all staff reminding them that all work rules apply and on no account should any anti-discriminatory remarks be made in any form of jest. In this age of litigation, you are strongly advised to also have a word with your managers beforehand to make sure that they all realise the dangers of flirting – leave alone more – with younger and or more junior members of staff. You would also be wise to give guidance to the guests on dress code. Anything remotely attractive or provocative – an extra button undone on the male shirt, a stocking on the lady – might be deemed as damaging to the professional image thereafter. Above all, don’t be tempted to be generous with the booze. People cannot be expected to take any sort of responsibility for themselves any more so it will be your fault if anything happens to them while intoxicated. Thanks to the Red Tape Brigade, no-one gets to enjoy the Christmas party any more. Bah humbug. Jan Cavelle is founder of The Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.
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