Category: Workplace Disputes and Mediation

Christmas Party Season – HR Fear or Office Cheer?

Most staff look forward to the office Christmas party all year and why not! A chance for the majority of us to relax a little, they are a great opportunity for you to show staff how much you appreciate their hard work. However, with spirits running high (as well as the alcoholic kind!) you could find yourself managing Christmas Party HR issues well into the New Year.

Whilst encouraging staff to enjoy themselves at this festive time of year, preparation is key to avoid any HR issues arising and knowing how to cope when they do. Here are Gravitate HR’s top tips for keeping your staff (and yourself) on the right side of Santa’s list!

DON’T make attendance at your Christmas party compulsory.

The Christmas party may clash with non-Christian religious dates leading to discrimination on religious grounds, or sex discrimination if workers can’t attend due to childcare responsibilities. Don’t forget to invite any employees who are currently on maternity/paternity leave to avoid a claim for pregnancy or maternity discrimination. All employees have a right to equal treatment so invite them all, including fixed term temporary workers, part-time staff and agency workers.

DO take into account different religions/age/beliefs/dietary or access requirements for your Christmas Party.

Although held at Christmas, the main aim is to say thank you to the whole of your workforce, not just those who celebrate Christmas or drink alcohol! Consider having soft drinks available for those who don’t drink alcohol, and vegetarian options for those who do not eat meat.

If you have under 18s working for you consider your venue carefully. For instance, it wouldn’t be advisable to hold it at a bar where no under 18s are allowed (this could lead to age discrimination). If there is no age restriction at the venue, remind anyone under the legal drinking age that they should not be drinking alcohol.

When booking a venue take into account its accessibility for any disabled employees. They must not be treated less favourably and ought to be encouraged, and able to attend in the same way as non-disabled employees.

DON’T encourage alcohol fuelled antics.

It’s a bad idea to provide free drinks for your staff all night. Set a limit to wine on the table, or a glass or two of fizz on arrival. Expecting staff to remain sober, particularly if you decide to provide free alcohol to employees could be unreasonable. However, staff who are drunk and behaving inappropriately could find themselves in a disciplinary situation, particularly if they are found to have damaged business interests or committed an act of misconduct. Clearly set out exactly what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable before the Christmas Party and remember you have a duty of care toward your staff, even at the party itself.

Have a think about start and finish times, and provide staff with details on public transport links or taxi numbers for getting to and from the party. Encourage staff not to drink and drive and remind them about the legal driving limit.

To prevent absences the following day, consider having the Christmas Party on a Friday if the office isn’t open on a Saturday and remind staff that unless there is a genuine reason for absence, it could be considered as ‘unauthorised’. Do be lenient with staff who are working the day after the Christmas Party, and do take into account how much alcohol was supplied by you as the employer!

DO remind staff about company HR policies concerning bullying, harassment and equal opportunities.

Remind staff of key HR policies before the Christmas Party and that any inappropriate behaviour on the night will be treated the same way as during work hours. Make sure all of your policies are up to date. If any inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour takes place, be quick to get a full and proper investigation completed before staff start disappearing on annual leave.

Office Cheer!

Hopefully the above will ensure that your Christmas Party is a successful and fun event, as well as minimising any risks of HR issues. If you do have any concerns or are looking for some advice, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or one of the Gravitate HR team on 0131 225 7458. Happy Holidays everyone!

Seize the Moment in 2014

Seize the Moment in 2014

2014 looks set to be an exciting year, particularly with the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the Scottish Independence Referendum. Together with changes to Employment Law (a summary of which can be found here), these events could rouse some interesting HR implications for organisations in 2014.

Commonwealth Games 2014

Holiday requests

During the Commonwealth Games (23 July – 3 August 2014), employers may experience unusually high levels of requests for annual leave. Some employees may have been fortunate enough to obtain tickets for the Games, others may simply wish to take time off to watch the Games live on television. It also coincides with a period where many people take their summer holidays. As such, employers should be ready to deal with competing holiday requests.

Employers may wish to consider whether existing annual leave policies provide a workable procedure and timeframe to accommodate any competing holiday requests. Furthermore, organisations without such policies should consider whether now would be a good time to create and implement them. Particularly as the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) apply in the absence of procedures for making holiday requests. Under the WTR, employees are only required to give a period of notice that amounts to twice the number of days they wish to take. For example, for one day’s holiday an employee is only required to give two days’ notice.

In cases where holiday requests have not be granted, some employees may be tempted to take unauthorised absence. Employers should also review their sickness absence policies and remind staff of the procedure for reporting absence and for returning to work.

Social Media

With live streaming of the Commonwealth Games, employers wishing to limit the personal use of computers at work should remind employees of their policies on computer usage. Employers could allow employees to watch the Games on television during breaks, where they are able to facilitate this. However, it is important to avoid disruption by restricting any screenings to staff or meeting rooms.

Scottish Independence Referendum

The Scottish Independence Referendum is set for 18th September 2014 and is likely to invoke some political discussion in the workplace. Intelligent political dialogue can be good for employees and may even increase camaraderie. However, such discussions can quickly escalate into arguments and may lead to formal complaints. Furthermore, nationalistic jokes and teasing could breach an organisation’s diversity or equal opportunities policies. In some cases, such as where an employee has been subjected to unwanted conduct related to nationality, it could constitute harassment. Employers should be alert to such possibilities and be ready to deal with any breaches.

Contact us for more information

Please do contact a member of the team at Gravitate HR on 0131 225 7458 if you would like any further information.

Mediation Services

Gravitate HR can offer Mediation as an alternative to following statutory processes

Mediation can, and increasingly is, used to settle disputes, define problems or disputes, manage conflict, prevent conflict and negiotate contracts. It can be applied to many situations and from our perspective can be successfully used in the workplace as an alternative to using statutory Disciplinary or Grievance procedures, which can result in protracted hearings and ultimately involve legal action played out in an Employment Tribunal.

What are the advantages of Mediation?

  • Non adversarial
  • Voluntary
  • Entirely Confidential
  • Agreed Outcomes
  • Participative
  • Faciliatated rather than imposed

When to use Mediation?

  • In deadlock situations
  • If a non legal remedy is required
  • If the costs of a legal remedy are disportionate
  • If a quick solution is necessary
  • The facts are not clear or may be compromised
  • Number of parties involved
  • Public reputation is at stake
  • Continuing the relationship is important

Is mediation for you?

This will depend on the set of circumstances, facts, desired outcomes and individuals involved. Our role is to advise and support you on the most appropriate approaches to manage the issues that arise from the employment relationship. So to answer “is mediation for you?” we would wish to gain a full understanding of the background to advise accordingly.

Please contact us to discuss mediation as an option for your business by contacting Margery on 0131 243 1374 or email