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Planning a Covid-secure office Christmas party

Published 23 November 2021

The office Christmas party may look and feel different this year with a negative lateral flow test result or Covid pass required for admission to a gathering.

After the pandemic forced party plans to be shelved last year, the traditional office Christmas party looks set to return.

Due to various pandemic-related restrictions 12 months ago, virtual office parties were all the rage.

But with hospitality venues now fully reopen it is likely to see a return of the festive office party.

How the work knees-up will now look and feel may well differ from what you are accustomed to.

Where previously the biggest worry may have been getting drunk and embarrassing yourself in front of the boss, you could be forgiven for worrying if it will be safe to attend.

Covid-19 infections have fallen in most parts of the UK, though levels remain high.

Most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that around one in 65 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to 13 November, down from one in 60 the previous week [1 cited 23/11/21]

In England, hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and bars are no longer required to provide table service or follow other social distancing rules.

However, employers still need to ensure staff are safe at any get together it arranges outside of the workplace.

Businesses have a legal duty to make sure employees are safe at work and this extends to work events  [2 cited 23/11/21]

So if an employer plans a festive party for staff away from the usual place of work, it is legally responsible for ensuring the event is safe and for minimising risks of any hazards and dangers.

Office party planners will certainly need to show a great deal of thought and care in organising a Covid-compliant celebration.

In holding the Christmas party at an external venue, consideration will have to be given as to if there any entry requirements

In Wales people must show an NHS Covid Pass or demonstrate their vaccination status to enter nightclubs and attend large events [3 cited 23/11/21]

With most workplaces now Covid-secure it may be a good idea to hold a Christmas party at the usual place of work.

However, consideration will have to be given to those employees who may feel vulnerable.

It may mean introducing safety measures, which could include asking staff to take lateral flow tests, risk assessments, social distancing and hand sanitising measures.

If an employee still feels uncomfortable about joining in, that is their choice and it should be respected.

Even selecting a suitable day for the office party is likely to need much more thought than usual.

Most recent figures show that between 3 and 14 November, around two-thirds (67 per cent) of working adults in Great Britain reported travelling to work at some point in the past seven days. [4 cited 23/11/21] While 3 in 10 working adults (30 per cent) reported working from home in the same period.

With many employees now having a varied working pattern, choosing a suitable date for the party will need some thought.

There may still be a great deal of apprehension about employers hosting a work Christmas party.  Dromoland Castle, in Ireland, and a sister hotel are said to have lost out on an estimated €400,000 because of  Christmas party cancellations following a surge in Covid-19 cases [5 cited 23/11/21]

If you are determined not to miss out and are worried about safety there is still the option of a virtual office Christmas party. At the time of writing a Google search for ‘virtual work Christmas party ideas 2021’ produced 106,000,000 results

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