Issue 040 - November 2017
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Ensuring a happy office Christmas party

It's that time of year again! Thankfully employers can avoid Christmas party mishaps if they are aware of their legal responsibilities over the festive period. Alcohol is often free-flowing with employees in high-spirits, and all too often intentions of civilised celebration are dragged under by reprehensible drunken behaviour. Examples of problems employers can face at the party include:

  • Aggressive and threatening behaviour

  • Harassment, bullying and discrimination on grounds of sex, race, sexuality, religion etc

  • Inappropriate behaviour that could bring the name of the company into disrepute

Employers should be aware that they are liable for employee behaviour during the ‘course of employment’, which includes the office party. As such, employers are unable to turn a blind eye to bad behaviour and misconduct, and rather than ducking responsibility, they would be better served tackling it proactively with steps that minimise the risks of any potential claims, as well as reduce the risks of alcohol fuelled mistakes.

Reasonable steps to prevent discriminatory and ill-judged behaviour could include:

  • Instigating disciplinary action against troublesome employees

  • Establishing an anti-harassment policy and ensuring it is communicated to all employees

  • Providing training and guidance on expected behaviour, including what is considered unacceptable behaviour and the consequences for such behaviour.

For employers anxious about the upcoming office party, here are a few brief solutions to ensuring a happy and positive event.

  • Get employee buy-in prior to the event. Consult with them over venue and issues such as theme and dress code. You don’t necessarily have to hand-over responsibility – and budget! – for the event, but you may find that giving them a voice increases a shared sense of participation and accountability, which will keep potential trouble makers in check.

  • Set a budget for drinks and food. This will set an expectation when it comes to alcohol intake. Free bars are loved by employees but it can encourage excessive drinking and behaviour.

  • Make employees aware of non-acceptable behaviour and the repercussions for anyone who breaches company standards and accepted behaviour. Of course, you want your staff to have fun and not stifle their freedom, so you may want to consider how you deliver your expectations. Don’t appear too puritan about the whole thing – remember the party is meant as a reward for the year’s work. Stay calm and relaxed and you are more likely to get staff buy-in.

  • Think about health and safety at the event. This won’t be a concern if your party is hosted by an events company, but for those who are taking responsibility for the location, you might want to consider carrying out a risk assessment prior to the event. This will limit the risks of accidents during the event and reduce the liability against any claims should the worse happen.

  • Cater for everyone who will be attending the party to avoid discrimination. Ensure there is food that is appropriate for employees’ religious and cultural needs, including non-alcoholic drinks.

  • When dealing with large groups, it may also be worth considering arrangements for the employees to get to and from the event (i.e. arranging coaches or minibuses).

For a free Christmas party checklist and invite template please visit


Managing staff absence around Christmas

One of the busiest times for employee holiday requests is through the Christmas holiday period, with a large number of employees requesting time off and managers having to juggle schedules to ensure that businesses aren’t left short staffed during potential busy periods.

As well as holiday requests, absence levels are amongst their highest around the festive period, this can be down to a number of reasons, more commonly this is down to flu season, however non-genuine absence is common around the holiday period as employees are often tempted to ‘pull a sickie’, especially if staff are unable to get their requested time off. This can make it particularly difficult for managers to keep track of absence types, which can lead to errors in reporting and lost days.

Managers need to remind employees of any holiday restrictions ahead of time, this can help give staff and managers a clear overview and helps them plan for any Christmas events in plenty of time. It is also important to communicate that if holiday requests are denied then employees will be expected to attend work, with the risk of disciplinary action being taken if sick notes or medical evidence isn’t provided.

Allocating a number of specific dates for employees, having a ‘Christmas shut-down’, or providing a maximum number of days an employee is entitled to over Christmas can help to reduce the strain on absence and also help to avoid holiday clashes. This can help take the focus, and worry, off booking holidays and ensures that staff are at their most productive during the busy times.

Fighting sexual harassment in the workplace

The recent sexual harassment allegations made against numerous celebrities and the subsequent social media driven 'Me too' campaign, in which thousands of women stood in solidarity with the victims who have accused these celebrities by sharing their own stories has bought the issue of sexual harassment into sharp focus and forced society to begin taking the issue more seriously. Sexual harassment can be defined as any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, the result of this behaviour can make the recipient feel uncomfortable, intimated or humiliated.

One of the most common places in which sexual harassment occurs is in the workplace. Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and secure workplace, and that includes preventing sexual harassment. It’s not only good for your employees, it’s good for you because knowing what sexual harassment is and having policies in place for preventing and dealing with it will save you a lot of headaches and costly lawsuits. Sexual harassment is prosecuted under the same  laws used to prosecute employers for race and religious discrimination, so it's important for employers to take it just as seriously as other forms of discrimination. Whilst males sexually harassing women constitutes the vast majority of cases, it is in fact gender-neutral and men can also be a victim of sexual harassment.

How to help prevent sexual harassment?

  • Create a clear, concise sexual harassment policy : make sure you have a sexual harassment policy in place which defines sexual harassment, explicitly sets forth that sexual harassment is not tolerated, explains the consequences and sets forth a process for reporting and investigating complaints.

  • Monitor the workplace : make it a regular practice to talk to your employees and ask them in private and confidentially about their working environment to ensure you are doing all you can in order to prevent.

  • Encourage employees to come forward : ensure employees feel comfortable about sharing their experiences by making it clear that anything they tell you will be kept confidential and will not in any way affect their career opportunities.

  • Take complaints seriously and investigate : take all complaints extremely seriously and perform a thorough investigation. If the complaint has any basis, ensure the correct measures are taken.

Seasonal Greetings from First Call HR!

We would just like to take this time to thank you for your business and wish you seasonal greetings, from all the staff here at First Call HR!

First Call HR
Director: Jeanette Lonsdale
07917 333999
Emma Armytage - HR Consultant: 
07973 531589
Emma Browning - HR Consultant:
07766 741738

Ensuring a happy office party
Sexual Harassment
Mental health in the workplace
Boosting productivity

Managing staff absence in the festive period

Tackling mental health in the workplace

As a society we have finally been giving the issue of mental health the attention it deserves. It is thought that 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health condition at some point in their life. Whilst also having an obvious moral obligation to care about the well-being employees, it is in the interest of employers to help tackle these issues in order to improve productivity and performance within the business.

Here are some tips to help improve mental health in the workplace:

Ensure you understand mental health
An employer that understands its staff is better able to support and encourage staff to be open about mental health. Employers should be trained to identify the causes of mental health, understand what mental health means and be able to recognise and try to erase the stigma associated with it.

Make a commitment to improve mental health
Acas recommends that employers should create a mental health policy that sets out its values regarding mental illness and gives practical guidance to managers and employees. Senior management should champion awareness of mental health and set a strong example to the employees at the organisation that will help get rid of any stigma attached to the illness. 

Identify ways to improve the workplace
Employers can create a more harmonious working environment. Assessing work/life balance, tackling the work-related causes of mental health and providing appropriate additional resources when required is key. Trade unions and other employee bodies can also play a role in helping staff who feel uncomfortable in the workplace.

Educate the workforce about mental health
Mental health should not be a taboo subject. Staff should be encouraged to talk about mental health and managers should be trained to deal with mental health in order to have effective and productive conversations with staff. Education for staff can be through team meetings, one-on-one meetings, awareness days or informal chats in the office. Newsletters and notices can also be on display to inform employees about mental health and what they can do if they feel anxious or under stress in the workplace.

For more information on this issue please visit

5 Ways to Boost Employee Productivity

Reduce wasted time.
This doesn't mean eliminating coffee breaks and water cooler chitchat. One simple way is to stop CC-ing everyone on emails that aren't relevant to them. Not only is the time they spend reading those missives wasted, the "you've got mail" sound interrupts concentration and distracts employees from the work they were trying to do.

Keep the noise down.
Cubicle farms may be unavoidable these days, but the lack of privacy and lack of quiet make it hard to think. Encourage your team to find places where they can concentrate free of distraction, in order to solve the tough problems. If company policy allows BYOD or work-from-home, untether your staff from their cubicles.

Eliminate procedural overhead.
Filling out forms in triplicate and collecting multiple managerial signatures may be great for documentation and compliance purposes, but admin procedures often get in the way of getting work done. You may need other departments’ to buy-in to making changes in processes, but eliminating unnecessary steps can free up significant time your team could spend doing something other than paperwork.

Assign work to the right people.
Work gets done much more quickly when the person doing the task is both qualified and motivated to get it done. Nobody is going to like every assignment they have to do, but if you can give work to people who like that kind of work, and have the skills and connections to get it done, you'll find it gets done faster.

Take advantage of technology.
Save time spent travelling to off-site meetings by using videoconferencing and collaboration software to eliminate the travel time. Take advantage of other software, too; there are plenty of free, open-source products that can let your team automate many routine software development tasks. Spending a little time building scripts and scheduling jobs can free up a lot of time for other important tasks.

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