COLUMN: Neil Warwick - Warning of festive dangers

THERE are a number of signs that the Christmas season is coming.

THERE are a number of signs that the Christmas season is coming.

It’s always traditional for lawyers and HR professionals to write articles, blogs and tweet about the dangers of excess at Christmas parties in December.

Normally these appear in the midst of party season – sometimes a little bit late. So in keeping with everything else starting early this year, the traditional warning is being sounded in November, to give enough time to do something about it.

The first thing to be aware of is that Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday this year, creating a little bit of a logistical headache. Do you take the chance to do something nice for staff and let them have Christmas Eve as holiday, even though it’s not a mandatory bank holiday, or do you resurrect the spirit of Scrooge and impose a rota on who can and cannot be absent from work on that day?

The knock-on effect of this is the fact that office parties and client- entertaining events will be held earlier to accommodate for the pre-Christmas weekend.

It’s traditional to warn of the dangers of excess alcohol, possible harassment claims and absenteeism, telling firms that they have must policies in place to address these risks. However, there are other risks to consider too.

Reputational damage is a real risk if you are paying for staff and/or clients to get drunk. Be cautious this year that any simmering resentment built up through the recession does not surface and undermine morale.

At mixed events pay heed to the fact that other organisations, particularly colleagues in the public sector, are under a huge amount of pressure and may not want to perceive others celebrating in a lavish fashion. Longer term be careful about obliging people to go out and entertain on behalf of your business as we are now starting to seeing health-related claims coming through.

While Christmas should be fun, and we hope it is for everyone, a little bit of pre-planning can head off some longer-term problems and ensure that the reputation and dignity of your organisation remains intact.

:: Neil Warwick is a partner at law firm Dickinson Dees


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