The party season is in full swing, but is it right that companies should host an office Christmas party? Especially as the number of Covid cases rises?
In a recent XYZ Law poll on LinkedIn, we asked whether people would be attending office Christmas parties. The vote was split, with 54% saying that they would be attending an Office Christmas Party, with 41% saying they wouldn’t be attending an Office Christmas Party; 5% were still indicating that they were still undecided about whether they were attending one. So increases in Covid rates and the presence of the new Omicron variant seems not to have deterred most people from attending their office Christmas party this year. Is this a reflection of being fed up with Covid restrictions from previous years and people trying to let their hair down once more? Interestingly the split is also reflected in an article from The Guardian on the 2nd December, with some saying they are turning down invitations, while others think the importance of getting together outweighs the risk. Meanwhile, some companies are deciding for their employees, Sainsbury’s is asking its staff to delay their staff to delay parties. Is there a case also to say people are rebelling against the Government for allegedly breaking Covid rules last Christmas, and basically, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander?
The party season has not been without tribulations so far, and people are catching covid-19 due to attending Christmas parties. The Daily Express reported on 6th December that around 70 hospital workers reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 after celebrating a Christmas lunch with over 170 people. In addition, a Birthday Party in Somerset resulted in 14 of the 18 guests catching the Omicron variant, which was reported by the I newspaper.
The Times highlights an essential question for businesses. “Can we be held liable if someone catches Covid at our Christmas party?” And in short, the article suggested, “yes, but the risk should be very low if you take reasonable steps to prevent infection.”
Worryingly, in a second XYZ Law poll, we asked whether people would take a lateral flow test before attending a party? 21% of the voters opted not to take a lateral flow test, which may put attendees at risk if they attend the office Christmas party. Meanwhile, 62% said they would take a lateral flow test before attending their office Christmas party. The fact is lateral flow tests are free and more accessible than ever to take. You now only have to take a nose swab, so it’s nowhere near as invasive as previous iterations of the test when you also had to provide a mouth swab. Lateral Flow tests can be ordered to your home address for free, and the tests are general with you the next day, with results available 30 minutes after you take the test. Other simple things that could be put if your venue permits are opening windows, standing room outside, ensuring hand sanitisers are available. The fact is that the risk will remain, but you’ve covered everything you can to mitigate that risk other than cancelling or delaying the event until a later date.
Whatever you decide regarding your office Christmas party, XYZ Law hopes you have a healthy and safe Christmas and New Year.