Its that time of year again where (often) the HR or management team are tasked with finding a fun, not too risqué seasonal party all within budget… or on occasion for free!

This year we’ve decided to act as Santa’s little helpers and have rounded up the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of parties to inspire and to warn you, enjoy!

The Good

Feeling Competitive?

Healthy competition between teams can be a good way to bring employees together and build working relationships. So why not swap bellinis for turbo-charged bumper cars in the action-packed venue Namco Funscape?

For a more grown-up approach, take the company skiing – no flights necessary! Ski slopes across London include The Snow Centre which offer private hire for 10-350 people, with apres-ski included.

Prefer the Thames to a Night on the Tiles?

For a bigger budget, a boat party always makes a splash, and Thames Leisure offer anything from a full Christmas dinner aboard the cosy Sailing Barge Will to dancing on deck!

London Aquarium’s Christmas experience meanwhile, will have you strolling through the Shark Walk, sipping drinks beside the Pacific Ship Wreck and watching divers swim with the sharks – throwing Christmas convention to the wind!

Try Something Festive for Foodies

If your employees are used to preparing gourmet dishes a la desko, why not treat them to a culinary experience?

Venturi’s Table teach you to create delicious winter recipes like homemade ravioli and stuffed pork while Konditor and Cook hold ‘Bake Offs’ and decorating sessions. For something totally different, Hashi Cooking host cookery workshops at your office, teaching a range of warming and healthy Japanese recipes over hot sake.

The Bad

You may be aware of the perils of the office party, but here are a few tips to avoid the potentially bad, turning ugly!

1. An open bar is never a good idea, limit alcohol and ensure that there are plenty of non-alcoholic options and food to counter the effects of alcohol.

2. Sending out an email or communication to staff before the event is a great way to get people excited for the event but to also remind them that the code of conduct upheld in your workplace still applies at the party.

3. Remind employees that their presence is expected the next day but as it is the season of good-will, agreeing a later start time could avoid some unnecessary “sick days”.

4. Make sure that the venue is fully accessible, and remind staff to plan their transport home ahead of time, providing taxi numbers in advance.

5. Adapt catering arrangements to ensure that they will not affect any religious groups and accommodate any dietary requirements.

6. Although limiting alcohol can help avoid any sexual harassment claims, removing mistletoe can help too!

7. Finally social media and smart phones are everywhere so a friendly reminder to your team not to do anything that they wouldn’t want caught on somebody’s camera phone might be sensible, after all – it may be used as evidence at a later stage!

The Ugly

Unfair dismissal:

Christmas party fight and the importance of the decision making process

Ms Westlake was employed by London Zoo, and at their Christmas party in December 2014, Ms Westlake got into a fight with a colleague, Ms Sanders, hitting her in the face with a glass.

Ms Sanders suffered a “short but deep gash” to her cheek but Ms Westlake maintained that Ms Sanders had struck her first and that she had “blindly hit out” without recalling that she was holding a glass.

London Zoo investigated the matter, which included interviewing a number of individuals who had been at the Christmas party. A disciplinary hearing took place, at which Ms Westlake admitted that a fight had taken place, and was dismissed. Ms Sanders on the other hand was given a final written warning and banned from future work social events, as it was concluded that she had acted partly in self-defence.

Ms Westlake brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The employment tribunal was satisfied that the reason for Ms Westlake’s dismissal was fair as the employer genuinely believed that the claimant had caused a severe injury to her colleague.

The tribunal then examined the differences in sanction for the two employees and noted that the reasons given by the disciplinary chair for the differences were the severity of Ms Sanders’ injury and a “gut feel” that Ms Westlake was the more culpable, ignoring the fact that Ms Sanders had been drunk.

The employment tribunal concluded that since the employer could not determine who started the fight, it could legitimately have dismissed them both, or given them both final warnings. Therefore the employment tribunal upheld Ms Westlake’s unfair dismissal complaint, on the basis that “no reasonable employer would have differentiated between the claimant and Ms Sanders on the basis of the evidence before it at the disciplinary hearings”.

Work  London comments: This case demonstrates the importance of ensuring that decisions made about a sanction or dismissal, should be based upon sound and well thought through rationales. Managers should be able to articulate why a decision was made, based on fact and logic. It is advisable to steer clear of rationales based on emotion and “gut feelings”, as this case so clearly shows us.

We hope our top tips help you and your team enjoy a festive and hassle-free affair, and stay tuned for the next monthly edition of The Round Up!

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