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Employment

Do we have to go to the work Christmas party?

We can confirm that there is no law that covers the attendance of work Christmas parties. Phew.

It’s always hard to tell how mandatory non-mandatory Christmas parties are. There are fears that failure to attend will mean you could fall out of favour with managers, or viewed as not a team-player or unfriendly. 

But for remote workers, people with children, or people continuing to shield themselves from Covid, the demands of travelling to a large event can be a real struggle.

And then there’s those of use who, either for mental health or anxiety related reasons, would simply not enjoy it. 

So what is a valid reason to skip the office Christmas party, and do you really have to go? We asked the experts. 

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I work from home – do I have to travel to the office Christmas party?

“A good workplace policy will ensure staff are treated fairly whether they are home or office workers”, says Acas, which, reading between the lines, suggests that employers should take into consideration the needs of remote workers, not just those based in the office. 

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Therefore they could hold alternative events like a quiz or an online event to be inclusive of staff that are unable to attend a physical event at a particular time.

Is there still a risk of catching Covid at a Christmas party?

The Office for National Statistics has estimated that, as of early November, around 1.9 million people in the UK are currently infected with Covid, or one in 35 people. 

This means that if you are at a party with at least 34 other people, it is likely that someone in the room will have the virus.

This is down from one in 30 the previous week, and national data also shows that the number of people being admitted to hospital is falling, too. 

The NHS still advises that Covid can make anyone seriously ill, but warns that it affects middle-aged and older adults the worst. If you have not been vaccinated against the virus you are at a higher risk of needing to be admitted to hospital if you catch it. 

If you are vulnerable to becoming ill with Covid-19, or someone you live with is, you may want to give the work Christmas party and other larger events a miss. 

Social anxiety pr mental health makes going seriously daunting – do I have to?

For many of us, the prospect of mixing with work colleagues we may not know very well and making a good impression can feel daunting to say the least. For others, it can be seriously anxiety inducing. 

Writer Matt Haig spoke to the Big Issue about how difficult Christmas can be for those struggling with their mental health

“Christmas is problematic for a lot of people in terms of mental health, because of the excess alcohol, different routines… As with any mental health crisis that’s related to a time of year, it’s really important to remember that it’s a transient temporary situation,” he said. 

Business woman Ruth Kudzi, founder of Optimus Coach Academy, admits to skipping the work Christmas party on more than one occasion when she wasn’t feeling confident. 

“It is okay to give it a miss if it will impact your social anxiety or mental health. I think that we need to rethink how we frame things like Christmas parties as if it is making our teams feel anxious or impacting on their mental health we need to ask if it is the right thing to do for everyone,” she told The Big Issue.

While you do run the risk of not being seen as a team player or contributing to the organisational culture, “organisations who believe this are outdated and are not inclusive in their approach. The pro is that you protect your own mental wellbeing,” she continued.

But what about lying to get out of it? 

For Kudzi, if you feel that you have to be untruthful to avoid something that isn’t even in your job role, “it sounds like you are not in an organisation which values you as an employee.”

And last but not least, there’s no law that says you have to go!

If the Christmas party falls within your usual working hours, it may be the view of the organisers that it is a compulsory calendar event. If it falls outside of working hours, then it is up for debate.  

Acas, which acts as an intermediary in workplace disputes, told The Big Issue: “There are no employment laws that cover the attendance of Christmas parties or social events at work. It is up to individual workplaces on whether to have policies around this issue.

“It is a good idea for employers to discuss plans for Christmas parties with their staff in advance as this can help to get an agreement around what works for everyone.”

And of course, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you are not duty-bound to just because your boss is feeling festive.

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