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30th November, 2021

The COVID Christmas Party

Christmas Party gathering of people around a table

The COVID-19 guidance changed over the weekend after a new variant named ‘Omicron’ was detected in parts of the United Kingdom.

The change to the guidance is currently only applicable to England, with updates yet to be announced in Wales. Some restrictions which are currently in place could have the potential to affect your office Christmas party and so it is essential that employers keep up to date with the current guidance, which as with all things COVID is constantly being updated. The current guidance which employers must be mindful of is:

  • Mandatory face coverings are required on public transport and indoor public settings, except for hospitality premises, in both England and Wales;
  • 2-metre social distancing is still recommended in Wales;
  • Proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test (taken within the last 48 hours) is required for entry into nightclubs in Wales.

Can the Christmas party go ahead?

Currently, there are no restrictions on how many people can attend an indoor or outdoor event in both England or Wales. An employer should however consider a sensible approach to their office Christmas party to keep their employees as safe as possible.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has recommended the use of ‘pre-party’ lateral flow tests prior to attending an event. It is of note that a quarter of recent positive cases have come from asymptomatic people taking tests as a precaution,  strongly supporting the argument in favour of testing prior to the Christmas party as a safety measure.  Further, employers should follow the government guidance and encourage staff where possible to get vaccinated.

Make sure everyone feels included

Obviously when arranging social events, and particularly at the moment it is important for employers to adopt an all-inclusive approach.  Employers must be conscious that not everyone is comfortable attending public places and especially social events. If employees do not feel included, this can create a culture of disharmony within the workforce which can lead to absences, a drop off in performance and grievances.  In more severe circumstances discrimination claims could arise, particularly in respect of disability and maternity discrimination.

An alternative approach

Some ideas to ensure an all inclusive and alternative approach include:

  • Delayed parties – having your Christmas party at another time of the year where there may be less restrictions;
  • Department parties – having a smaller scale event which is likely to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in comparison to the whole workforce;
  • Outdoor venues – having your Christmas party at an outdoor venue can minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19, as well as providing an increased ability for individuals to be more socially distanced.

Contact us for help and advice.

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