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Festive Frolics: Navigating Christmas Workplace Party Etiquette – A Guide for Employers

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The weather outside is frightful, but the fire’s not delightful – just yet. That’s right, Christmas is just around the corner, and although nobody’s bells are quite jingled at the moment, they soon will be! As such, it’s the perfect time to discuss that cornerstone of office life, the work Christmas party. These gatherings can be a source of joy, festivity and camaraderie, but they are also rife with potential pitfalls and challenges when it comes to maintaining professionalism and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and respected. So, how do employers avoid the potential social landmines? Hold on to your Christmas crackers for now, as we’re going in. 

Ah, Christmas. It’s that time of year to relax, unwind, eat, drink and be merry. Or is it? Workplace parties are a constant fixture of most people’s calendar, yet they’re fraught with potential problems. So, first off, let’s take a look at why they’re so beloved in the first place – despite their drawbacks.

The Purpose and Benefits of Christmas Workplace Parties


Perhaps more than anything else, the Christmas period is a time for celebration. Whether it’s for religious reasons, or to simply allow staff to let their hair down in an informal setting, Christmas is a great time for employers to show appreciation and recognition.

Building Employee Morale 

Christmas parties also serve as an excellent opportunity for teams to celebrate all their hard work throughout the course of the year and come together to bond in mutual appreciation. Commending staff on their achievements can have a huge impact on their overall outlook, job satisfaction and motivation for the coming year.

Fostering Team Building 

What’s better than celebrating? Celebrating together. Christmas workplace parties provide a relaxed setting for employees to socialise and strengthen relationships with colleagues. These interactions can lead to improved teamwork and collaboration in the workplace.

Enhancing Employer-Employee Relationships

Furthermore, work parties offer employers a chance to interact with their staff in a more informal, relaxed manner. This can help bridge the gap between hierarchical levels, remove barriers and allow bosses to become more relatable in the eyes of their employees.

Moreover, enhancing this relationship is all about making sure that employees feel valued. As the saying goes, valued employees are likelier to be engaged employees, and employees that are engaged are more committed to their work and the businesses as a whole – boosting productivity and reducing turnover in the process.

When done right, Christmas parties can have all of the above benefits – and more. Critical to their success, however, is the planning. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail”.

Planning a Successful Christmas Workplace Party

Timing and Location

Selecting an appropriate date and venue for the Christmas party is an absolute must. Employee availability, travel logistics and accessibility for all staff members are things that no good workplace party can afford to overlook. Within this aspect alone are myriad pitfalls: after all, it’s not a great feeling for the one person who happens to be left out because the time or place aren’t suitable.

Take the feelings and considerations of all staff into account before you take the plunge. This way, you can avoid a costly social faux pas, and ensure that everyone is included.

Theme and Activities

Consider choosing a theme for your party as well. Not only can it create an element of fun and excitement, but it can also serve as a playful, whimsical element that unites your workforce. That said, you should also be mindful of the cultural and religious sensibilities of your staff when selecting a theme, avoid things which can be considered offensive or exclusionary and ensure that it is suitable for everyone and in line with company culture.  

If you really want to go the extra mile, you can even plan games and contests that give employees the chance to compete in a friendly way.

Budget Considerations

Another key factor in making sure that your party is a success is that the company’s budget is taken into consideration. Spend within your means, and book well ahead of time to avoid complications.

Meanwhile, it’s important to note that any added conditions (for example, if you opt for a fancy dress theme) are factored in for your staff. After all, not every employee will have the same amount of disposable cash to hand, and you should take that into account.

In the same spirit of inclusion, it’s also important to remember that not everyone views Christmas in quite the same way. For this reason, it’s also wise to consider the feelings and opinions of all members of staff without jumping to any sort of firm conclusion.

Promoting Inclusivity and Considering Others

Respect Cultural and Religious Differences

Christmas is celebrated in various ways by different cultures and religions. Employers should be sensitive to these differences and ensure that the celebration is inclusive and respectful of all employees’ beliefs. Consider hosting a holiday party that acknowledges a broader range of holidays and traditions, rather than a narrow view.

Alcohol Consumption

If alcohol is to be served at the Christmas party, it is crucial to encourage responsible drinking. Employers should provide alternative beverages and transportation options to ensure that employees can get home safely, and be respectful to those who choose not to drink for whatever reason.

Accommodating Dietary Restrictions

Take into account dietary restrictions and allergies when planning the catering for the party. Ensure that there are options available for employees with various dietary preferences and requirements. Remember, too, that not every employee will necessarily be forthcoming in their dietary needs, so take care to speak to them individually and in private as necessary.

That’s already quite an exhaustive list of things to consider, and the party hasn’t even started yet! But when the big day comes, what factors should employers take into account?

Communication and Expectations

Clear Invitations and RSVPs

Send out invitations and RSVPs well in advance with clear details about the date, time, location and dress code (if applicable). Remember that not everyone will have the time nor inclination to respond immediately, so, when invites are sent out, do so with ample foresight.

Dress Code

If you choose to have a dress code for the Christmas workplace party, make sure that it is properly conveyed to all staff members to save embarrassment. Keep it relaxed, too: it’s better to accommodate different styles and comfort levels than risk a proverbial wardrobe malfunction!

Behavioural Expectations

It’s great for everyone to relax and have fun, but it’s sensible to remind employees of the company’s code of conduct and set expectations regarding people’s behaviour at the party. Respectful interactions with a sense of comradeship are infinitely preferable to inappropriate ones which cross the line and cause tensions and fraction between and among staff members. 

With the above matters clearly put across, your work party should go down like a slice of Christmas pudding. Once the celebrations are over, there are still things that you ought to take into account.

Employment Law Concerns

Harassment and Discrimination 

After everyone has had a drink or two, it’s easy for people to forget their sense of decorum. However, from an employment law perspective, this is an excuse that simply won’t wash. If comments are made or behaviour initiated which cross the boundary into harassment or discrimination, then the business needs to clamp down firmly in order to avoid costly claims.

Unwanted sexual advances, as well as discriminatory or abusive language and behaviour can often be misinterpreted as ‘banter’ in the moment, but it’s wise to consider the party as an extension of the workplace and treat any issues as such to stay on the right side of the law.

False Promises

Similarly, promises made to staff after one too many drinks can be taken seriously by employees, and may again result in disputes.

To avoid, temper your claims with professionalism and retract any spurious statements as quickly as possible.

Bad Behaviour

As previously mentioned, the workplace party should be considered an extension of the workplace. This means that bad behaviour, such as property damage, theft or other criminal activity should be treated exactly the same as if you were at work: with disciplinary procedures and full compliance with the injured party and authorities.

Workers and Agency Workers

Another key point of contention is that of agency and temporary workers. If they have worked for your business for 12 weeks or more, then they are entitled to the same provisions as the rest of your staff.

This can become tricky if, for example, they are not invited to the Christmas workplace party when your other, contracted workers are. If pursued, this can even lead to claims of unfair treatment and eventually, employment tribunal. As a result, it’s best to treat them exactly the same as the rest of your employees and ensure that they are included.

Post-Party Considerations

Recognition and Appreciation

After the party, take the time to thank your employees for their attendance and contributions to the company’s accomplishments. Recognition can be done through a simple thank-you message, a personalised note or a small token of appreciation. Small gestures such as this go a long way into making your event a successful one.

Feedback and Evaluation

The easiest way to know if your staff thought the party was a good one? Ask them! Soliciting feedback from employees after the event can be a great way to understand what they enjoyed and what can be improved in future.

Follow-Up Actions

If any issues or concerns do arise during the party or its aftermath, address them promptly, professionally and confidentially. This demonstrates that the company takes employee wellbeing seriously and is committed to maintaining a positive workplace culture.

Balancing the spirit of fun with that of professionalism is the quintessential part of good Christmas workplace party etiquette, and should be kept in mind at all times.


Christmas workplace parties offer employers a valuable opportunity to celebrate and commend their employees’ hard work, they can help foster a greater sense of team spirit and even enhance workplace relationships.

However, getting them right can be a veritable tightrope on which to walk. By considering the above factors, you stand the best chance of making your party go off without the proverbial coal in the stocking.

For further tips, advice or queries, why not get in touch with our dedicated team of friendly advisors today on 01455 444 222 or email [email protected].

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.

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