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Important considerations for employers in this season of office parties

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

Covid-19 continues to be a real issue for businesses looking to keep their operations going while protecting staff. What should employers consider as work gatherings become more of an issue in the run up to Christmas?

Employees meeting face to face is an important part of the workplace dynamic and culture. It is vital to remember that an employer’s legal obligations, including health and safety duties to protect staff, extend to organised work events outside of the normal workplace. Employers should consider if an event is the right thing for the business now or whether it should be delayed. Many employees remain nervous of attending large gatherings or using public transport.

The devolved governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as England have all imposed increased measures including encouraging employees to work from home. Employers should consider having smaller events, maybe by team rather than companywide.

Careful thought should also be given to whether any event being held can accommodate the same Covid-19 protections and precautions as is being maintained in the workplace as inconsistencies could undermine any health and safety policies.

Employers should consider greater use of lateral flow testing and ensure appropriate venue ventilation. As it has been a while since employees were face to face, send reminders of expected behaviour particularly regarding sexual harassment policies especially if there are new joiners. If drinks are made freely available ensure there is enough food to help soak it up. Remember that not everyone wants to celebrate with a drink so be mindful of offering alternatives to make the event truly inclusive.

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