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Is Covid The Grinch That Steals Our Christmas Cheer?

View profile for Catherine Almeida
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After a difficult year many of us are looking forward to letting our hair down a little at the work Christmas party. However, with the announcement of the new Omicron Covid variant, employers and employees alike are becoming nervous. Employers have an ongoing legal duty and responsibility towards the welfare of their teams. So, what steps should employers take to ensure the safety of their staff so that they can go ahead with their planned Christmas parties?

Alongside the normal considerations, such as minimising alcohol intake and making sure everyone will be able to get home safely, employers should undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus. As well as banning the mistletoe, this could include:-

  • Encouraging staff to take lateral flows before attending
  • Reminding staff about the importance of social distancing and regular handwashing 
  • Organising staff into bubbles or groups to help with contact tracing
  • Checking with your venue to see what measures they have in place for reducing the risk of Covid spread
  • Breaking down your party into smaller team-based events with an online event for the whole company
  • Avoiding having a buffet and consider changing to table service
  • Making it clear there is no obligation to attend 

Across the workforce there will be a mixed appetite for celebrating together. Those caring for vulnerable or elderly family members or staff who are in a high-risk group themselves may be extra cautious. Employers should be careful not to treat those staff members unfavourably – this could be seen as discriminatory.  For those who do not wish to attend, you might want to offer a voucher as a gift to thank them for their work instead. It is a challenge for employers to balance the need to give staff the opportunity to socialise and to reward them, while enforcing reasonable safeguards, but it is important to get this right.

In terms of your business need or operations, you may also wish to consider how that may be affected in the event of staff having to self-isolate, should cases emerge following the Christmas party.

Employees themselves may be reluctant to attend close to the run-up to Christmas due to the fear of self-isolation on Christmas Day. If you are dropping in numbers for this reason, to support the hospitality industry in Wales, you could consider postponing the event to early in 2022.

Official advice is being updated regularly as new strains emerge. Remember to direct your teams to monitor the latest advice on the Welsh Government website regarding isolation, mask-wearing and other actions.

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