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A different kind of office Christmas party

Published 14 December 2020
It’s the time of year when the office Christmas party would usually be the talk of the workplace, but it’s bound to be different this year.

Working from home, varying local lockdown restrictions and limited numbers allowed to meet up in a pub or restaurant will prove to be festive party poopers.

The majority of this year has been a challenge for us all both personally and professionally.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has impacted on many aspects of all our lives. It has changed the way in which we have had to do many things.

Traditionally the office Christmas party will be a large, often lively, get together in a pub, restaurant or hospitality venue.

Government restrictions on the number of people allowed to meet up and socialise together means any such gatherings are likely to be illegal.

Three different tiers of restrictions were introduced following the end of lockdown on 2 December.

Currently in Tier 1 you must not socialise in groups larger than six people, indoors or outdoors, other than where a legal exemption applies. In Tier 2 and 3 you must not socialise in groups larger than six people. The restrictions on the number of people you can meet with is called the ‘rule of 6’ (1).

Organisers of gatherings of over 30 people can be hit with £10,000 fines for breaching coronavirus regulations.

There have already been a number of cases in which different celebrations, of varying sizes, have proved costly for those involved.

Last week City of London police reportedly issued a £10,000 fine for a 45-person office party, which was said to include ‘alcohol, a DJ and decks’ (2). At the time, London was in Tier 2 restrictions.

Long-serving Sky News presenter Kay Burley is to stay off-air for six months after admitting breaking Covid rules during a night out for her 60th birthday (3). Other presenting colleagues who attended the bash are also reported to have been suspended.

And popstar Rita Ora is said to have paid £10,000 after hosting a 30th birthday party attended by friends at a West London restaurant (4)

With tight restrictions on the numbers allowed to meet up, those who wish to organise a festive office shindig will face new challenges. They will need to be inventive to stay on the right side of the law.

One thing is for sure, the office Christmas party will look and feel very different from previous years. It does not necessarily mean the annual get together has to be cancelled, it will just need a bit of creative thinking.

In much the same way that online video conferencing apps have changed the way in which we now work, it seems they may also come to the rescue of the office party.

As meeting up in person is not possible for most workplaces, it seems the virtual, Covid compliant, office Christmas party will be the in thing this year.

Popular ideas for such a celebration are said to include fancy dress, chatting over drinks and food, a talk by an interesting speaker, festive quizzes, a fun group crafting session or challenge, and many more.

As can be expected some creative types have come with ideas for the ultimate Xmas party.

One such organisation, which is reported to be more accustomed to organising events at large venues is now hosting virtual parties with a difference (5)

Clients can begin by selecting an entrance experience - for example a comedy bouncer who checks dress code on the way in - and then choose from more than thirty immersive rooms, from burlesque to dance floors.

Guests can move between rooms using a clickable party map, showing the different performances and where the guests are.

Virtual toilets and smoking areas are even included.

With a traditional Christmas party it is not uncommon for boozy antics to lead to later allegations of misconduct.

It may just be worth reminding virtual Christmas partygoers of their responsibilities beforehand.

 

 

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References

(1) Tier Restrictions [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 14.12.2020] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know

(2) Office party gets a fine [Internet] www.ibc.co.uk [Cited 14.12.2020] https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/london-tier-3-three-office-party-fine-10k-police/

(3) Long-serving Sky News presenter Kay Burley is to stay off-air for six months [Internet] www.bbc.co.uk [Cited 14.12.2020] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55257817

(4) Rita Ora is said to have paid £10,000 after hosting a 30th birthday party [Internet] www.metro.co.uk [Cited 14.12.2020] https://metro.co.uk/2020/11/30/rita-ora-pays-10k-fine-for-breaking-lockdown-rules-with-30th-birthday-party-as-police-are-seen-outside-restaurant-13677766/

(5) Virtual parties with a difference [Internet] www.bbc.co.uk [Cited 14.12.2020] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-54894806

A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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