The following Q & A sheet comes from a press release by ACAS informing employers how to hold a company party. It really is something else.
Q. We usually allow our social club to sell raffle tickets for prizes which are given out at the Christmas party - surely there's no problem with this?What do they mean by "some religions" I wonder? Could these people who won't be winning the prizes of alcohol or meat because they don't gamble be the same people who don't drink alcohol or non-blessed meat? Also can anyone point me to an example where a vegetarian or vegan has gone postal because their raffle prize wasn't quorn?
A. Generally, no. However, some religions forbid gambling so no pressure should be exerted on staff who don't want to take part. It's also worth ensuring that the prizes on offer are not going to be unacceptable to those who do not drink alcohol or eat meat.
Q. What if an employee who has clearly drunk too much at the office Christmas party is planning to drive home. It's not my responsibility, is it?Brilliant, this means I can get into a fight on the way home when I'm drunk and claim diminished responsibility citing my bosses as ultimately to blame for my stupid actions. I shall do this just before I blame my parents for having me, then blame their parents for having them ad infinitum.
A. In fact, it is. As an employer you have a 'duty of care' toward your employees and as it's the company's party, you need to take some responsibility. Think about travel arrangements and maybe end the party before public transport stops running. Or provide the phone numbers for local registered cab companies and encourage employees to use them. Hiring minibuses to take staff home is another option which would probably be greatly appreciated.
Q. We want to make sure that there isn't a repeat of last year when people failed to turn up for work the day after the party?How about not holding the bloody thing on a school night? This way you won't waste lots of cash on non-alcoholic things that no one drinks.
A. Make sure you provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food. Before the party ensure that all staff realise that disciplinary action could be taken if they fail to turn up for work and there is reason to believe it is due to over-indulgence.
Q. If an employee suffers verbal abuse about being gay at the local pub before the party - it's not on work premises so it's a matter for them, isn't it?This is surely bollocks? If it were true then the company could surely discipline everyone for going on the lash on company time. And anyway, what if the person giving the abuse is just some punter in the pub, what's the company going to do? Employ him for an hour so it can sack him for discrimination?
A. Wrong - going to the pub before the office party counts as an extension of work and so all the laws covering discrimination still apply. Make sure the company has policies in place on bullying and harassment and discrimination and that everyone knows what they are and what the penalties are for ignoring them.
Q. My recently-recruited manager has issued an email to staff telling them that Christmas decorations breach health and safety rules. She also said they are outlawed by the religion and belief regulations. Is she correct?Risk assessment? Once upon a time there was this little thing called common sense that dictated that putting tinsel, which is made of paper, next to very very hot things, might be bad. Oh yes, and the manager should be fired, she's clearly an idiot (although unlike ACAS she does at least realise that Christmas trees and decorations are religious in origin, she should still be fired though because she wants to ban them).
A. As long as a proper risk assessment is carried out looking at where and how decorations are sited, particularly if they could pose potential fire hazards, health and safety rules will not normally be breached. Regulations on religion and belief do not outlaw traditional customs. As most Christmas decorations such as tinsel, lights and trees are secular and not inherently religious, it could be difficult to argue that they cause offence to non-Christians.
Q. Our Christmas party has always been a rather quiet event. However, we took over another company this year and now have a majority of younger employees. They are used to more boisterous celebrations and I'm worried that age discrimination claims will be lodged - how can I make everyone happy?It's called "Wedding Shite". If you don't know what that is then frankly you shouldn't be arranging an office party. In fact, you don't even deserve to go to it.
A. The key to any successful party is to put some thought into it. Try to ensure that there is a mix of music and that any organised entertainment takes account of all ages. What you end up with may not be to everyone's taste but you can always learn from it and canvass suggestions for next year!
So in summary, an ACAS approved office party is one with nothing that might upset some religions, definitely no raffle, absolutely no booze (people might get drunk!), no meat whatsoever in case PETA turn up, and no pre-party trip to the pub in case someone gets called a name by some other unspecified random person. Would you bother going?