HR's Guide to Festive Failures

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People professionals have their plate full all year round, but there’s a particular business to the festive period which can cause stress to run high and increase the likelihood of mix ups and mistakes. Keep reading to learn how to avoid these issues and ensure your organisation can enjoy their Christmas.

The Christmas Party

The Christmas party is an exciting time for many employees but there is a chance for a festive failure to occur.


  • Boost engagement and morale
  • Enhance company culture
  • Encourages networking with other teams and colleagues
  • Reward for staff


  • Difficult to organise something that suits everyone
  • Limited budgets and availability
  • Stress for the person organising
  • Unacceptable behaviour

What you can do

  • It falls back to HR to sort out on return to the office, and employers can be liable for the conduct of their employees if they cannot demonstrate the reasonable steps taken to prevent such actions.
  • Ensure your workplace policies are up to date – that they cover the expectation of how employees should behave and what is deemed unacceptable.
  • May want to consider a social media policy that includes social events – emphasising the need to respect the privacy of others and not adversely affect the reputation of the company.
  • Ensure you party is inclusive – Does it have to be called a “Christmas party”? Are there non-alcoholic alternatives available? Does the catering respect all dietary requirements and cultural beliefs? Is the venue accessible to disabled employees? Ensure the date does not clash with any other religious events currently.
  • Ensure your leadership teams are representing the company and being role models – people will often follow what the most senior team members are doing.
  • Everyone should be invited to the Christmas party, whether they are sick or on maternity leave.
  • Advise managers not to discuss career potential or remuneration with employees at the party.
  • A free bar or a cap on how many drinks are provided?

Leave over the Christmas period

The festive period is often a time of absence from both annual leave and a time where illnesses run rife.

  • Offering time off whilst ensuring day to day operations is not affected can be tricky. Here is the best way to manage
  • Check the leave planner – make sure staffing levels are right and where possible, map time out time off in advance.
  • Company shut down – some business cease business over the holiday period so everyone can enjoy the time off.
  • Ensure your policies are up to date – so employees know what the expectation is if people need to work over the holiday period. Be transparent over what is expected.
  • Be more flexible over the Christmas period – allow people to have extended lunch breaks or finish earlier to help them cope with the stresses of preparing and organising Christmas.

Other Considerations

  • Bad weather can cause issues with getting into work.
  • Where an employee is unable to attend work due to snow travel disruption, they have no statutory right to be paid.
  • However, the company could look to the employee working from home for a temporary period or the employee taking annual leave or having the time off unpaid.

Secret Santa

Office secret Santa can seem like a fun tradition among colleagues but there are a few things that you should bear in mind.

  • Be aware that some people are struggling at this time of year.
  • Cost of Living crisis also affecting most people.
  • Decision as to whether secret Santa is a good activity to do in a business.
  • Although optional – many may feel force to participate.
  • Set a smaller price range of £3-£5, instead of £10-£20

Following these tips could spare you from the classic HR festive failures.