Skip to main content

EmmaO'Connor Banner Image

Emma O'Connor


Jenny Bacon

Jenny Bacon


As we head into December and to the end of the year, it is a time when teams and colleagues come together to celebrate at Christmas parties and to reflect on a year of achievements or challenges overcome.

However, to avoid an “HR hangover”, what tips can we give to our HR colleagues to ensure the party season is less “boo, boo, boo” and more “ho, ho, ho”? Jenny Bacon, Paralegal, and Emma O’Connor, Legal Director, consider the following dos and don’ts.

iStock 1176395105

Tips for employers and HR in December

  • Be inclusive. The festive season should be a time for togetherness and celebration, focusing on the achievements of the year just passed and the possibilities of 2024. HR should ensure that planned workplace events are inclusive for all staff. This could mean focusing on ensuring that there are specific foods for religious or other reasons, and also ensuring that there is provision for those who do not drink alcohol. 

  • Comply with your obligations as an employer under the Equality Act 2010. For example, when was the last time you reviewed (or even sent around) your organisation’s Equality Policy or Harassment Policy? When was the last time your organisation had any manager training on the legal risks and responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010? Our team can assist with training for you and your teams, so you are equipped not just for December, but all year round.
  • Make sure staff have taken their holiday. Taking holiday is a health and safety obligation, so check back and see if staff have holiday left which they might lose. Also, what about religious holidays? What happens if there is a request – how does your organisation manage such requests? Failure to grant employees time off for religious holidays could be grounds for direct or indirect discrimination. 
  • Remind managers, in particular, of their obligations at workplace events. Do you need to think about having designated staff on hand to make sure staff respect one another, their hosts, and the venue?  
  • Ensure employees know what behaviour is expected of them during Christmas events and the consequences of improper behaviour. No one wants to be a party pooper; however, reminding staff of the expectations – and risks – is something to consider.  
  • Be sensitive. Although this time of year is a celebration, for some it may stir up different emotions. Staff could be going through a difficult period at home or work, so be sensitive to others, and offer support where possible.  


HR and employers should avoid

  • Forgetting that employers are vicariously liable for the actions of their employees while at work. The definition of “at work” is potentially very wide - it can include off-site events, such as parties or lunches, and even impromptu events. 
  • Forgetting too that, under the Equality Act 2010, individuals can also be named as respondents in an employment tribunal claim and be held personally liable for discrimination or harassment. This is why legal training on the Equality Act 2010 is so important. 
  • Letting confidential information slip or having conversations with colleagues about pay, promotion, or performance. These events are not the time or the place – particularly if people have had a drink – to make promises you cannot keep. A person’s sensitive personal information should also be respected. 
  • Making attending a Christmas event obligatory. Workers may feel uncomfortable for various reasons and may not want to go. Think of events or experiences which are available and accessible to all – maybe things during the working day, remote events, cake sales, festive bake competitions, or perhaps a charity event or a wreath-making event. There are lots of possibilities and opportunities to bring people together which suit everyone.

Events, Christmas parties, or supporting charities are a way to bring workforces together, to celebrate, and to boost engagement. With some common sense and a reminder of behavioural expectations, all can enjoy the season and return refreshed for 2024. 


Can we help?

If you have any questions about the legal issues or topics covered in this article, especially manager training, please contact Emma O'Connor at [email protected]. Alternatively, understand how our team of experts can assist you and your business with various employment legal matters

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Employment team on

[email protected]
shutterstock 531975229 (1)

Stay ahead with the latest from Boyes Turner

Sign up to receive the latest news on areas of interest to you. We can tailor the information we send to you.

Sign up to our newsletter
shutterstock 531975229 (1)