I’d be failing in my duty to readers if I didn’t do my usual bah humbug column in this pre-Christmas issue, but I promise to keep it short this time!
Even though Christmas parties are usually held after work, employees need to remember, or to be reminded, that their behaviour is likely to amount to conduct at work, and they can therefore face disciplinary action if they go over the top.
Similarly, employers can also be liable for the behaviour of their employees if the event is held off-site.
So by all means enjoy yourselves, but don’t do what one manager did at a company party and go offering large pay rises to your employees.
When the rises failed to materialise, the employer ended up in court.
The law has changed as well. From October 1 this year the legal definition of sexual harassment has broadened to include any “unwanted conduct on the ground of the recipient’s sex; or unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature”.
At the risk of seeming Scrooge-like, it might be worth reminding your employees of this before the free bar opens.
But if you are a dedicated party animal and appreciate the company putting one on, where should you be looking for employment this winter?
According to a new survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, you’re more likely to get a Christmas party or gift if you work for a smaller company than a big one: 84% of firms employing between 50 and 249 staff pay for a Christmas party, compared with just 45% of companies with more than 5,000 employees.
Private sector employers are more generous than their counterparts in the voluntary and private sectors - 82% put on a Christmas party or lunch, compared with 66% of charities and just 21% of public bodies, although perhaps that isn’t so surprising when the taxpayer ultimately foots the bill.
Gifts from an employer are much less common, but again you are more likely to get one if you work for a small private sector business - 19% of medium-sized private businesses (50 to 249 staff) give hampers or vouchers, compared with 6% of large private companies (5,000-plus employees) and absolutely no public sector corporations.
Be aware, though, that even if the Inland Revenue is prepared to turn a blind eye to “trivial” gifts, anything worth more than about £25 is liable to be taxed.
And there’s a £150 a head limit on what you can spend on Christmas parties too; if you go over that limit, you will be liable for tax on the whole amount, not just the excess.
If you really want to make a lasting impression on your employees, maybe you’d be better off supporting an initiative such as the Institute of Fundraising’s Good Christmas Gift Campaign, which was launched last month.
The institute is calling on UK employees to sign up to payroll giving and support good causes this Christmas.
As I’ve written in this column before, payroll giving is a tax-efficient and relatively painless way for employers to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility, and if you are looking to retain your best staff and really engage their hearts and minds, this scheme is going to have a lot more impact than a few soggy sausage rolls and a chorus of Merry Christmas Everybody!