Time to plan the Christmas party!

October 31, 2023

Staff morale might be starting to sink right now, with darker nights, colder commutes and changeable skies. So getting on and arranging your work Christmas party gives everyone – including you – something to look forward to.

There are other benefits to getting started early, like having your pick of venues or other suppliers, and avoiding the stress of the last minute rush.

Before you start Googling “Christmas party” though, here are a few tips from HR to help ensure your party goes without a hitch.

Make sure everyone has the chance to be included.
Christmas is a time for bringing everyone together, so make sure no-one is left out. When choosing your venue or package think about dietary requirements, soft drink options for people who aren’t having alcohol, disability access and so on. Do you have a member of staff on maternity leave? Don’t forget to invite them along too.

Next day considerations.
Christmas parties are famous for people letting their hair down (more on that later). Depending on the nature of your business you may need people fully functioning the next working day in order to operate successfully. One way around this could be to arrange the party on a Friday or Saturday if you are shut over the weekend. Or failing that, make it clear that you expect staff in and fit the next day, and manage any rush for holiday bookings with this in mind.

Safe travel.
Unfortunately, the festive period is a time when drink-driving is more prevalent. And the long dark, nights mean it is less safe for people to travel by foot. So give some thought to how people will attend and leave your party. Make it clear drink-driving is not acceptable, share a local taxi number or check people have Uber on their phones.

An employee benefit.
While a Christmas party is not an employee benefit, it is usually a highly anticipated event for staff; and certainly a time to show you care and appreciate them. You need it to be affordable for you though. Did you know, though, that HMRC gives you a tax-free budget for throwing a party for staff? It doesn’t have to be confined to Christmas parties, but that is what it is most commonly used for.

You can spend £150 per employee each year and not have to pay tax or NI – just make sure it is some kind of annual event (e.g. a Christmas party) and is open to all your employees. If unsure, speak to your accountant.

Communicate your expectations.
As we mentioned earlier, and you are sure to already know, work Christmas parties are renowned for exuberance, and perhaps too much alcohol. Yet they are still extensions of the workplace, so it is important to remind your staff of this in the lead up to the event. Fighting, sexual harassment and other bad behaviour may be treated as gross misconduct under your disciplinary policy. Communicating this clearly in writing may not only reduce the chances of the worst happening, but also help act as a defence should someone try to hold you vicariously liable for the behaviour of your staff.

Need any assistance?
We are not professional party planners, but we are here to help should you want advice on managing staff in the lead up to, and aftermath of, a Christmas party. Just contact your local HR Dept office.