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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 12:07 GMT
Do not dance on desks, says TUC
Christmas party
RoSPA says it is safer to hold office Christmas parties in a hotel or bar
Companies have been urged to make sure their staff do not injure themselves at office Christmas parties by dancing on desks or photocopying themselves.

Managers have even been advised not to put up any mistletoe in case it encourages sexual harassment.

The warnings come from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the TUC, which have published a Christmas party checklist.

A separate report has said that festive hangovers could cost UK firms 65m.

Research for Norwich Union Healthcare estimated that up to 65m worth of working hours will be lost due to staff taking time off to recover from their Christmas party excesses.

'Sensitive areas'

Roger Bibbings, an occupational heath adviser at RoSPA, insisted the organisation was not being a scrooge, and instead called on firms to hold their festive parties in a hotel or bar.

"We are not being party poopers," he said.

"Some sensible safety precautions will allow people to have a great office celebration without having to call in the emergency services."

The call to prevent staff from photocopying parts of their body is because of the risk of glass in painful places if the machine breaks, RoSPA said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The guidelines sound like an exercise in stating the blindingly obvious to me
John B, UK

Dancing on office tables should be prevented because they are not as strong as those in a pub or bar, it added.

"There won't be much Christmas cheer in your workplace if your winter wonderland turns out to be a danger zone," said Frances O'Grady, TUC deputy general secretary.

"Some simple precautions can make sure your party goes off with a bang, instead of a crash."

Commonsense

But Nick Goulding, chief executive of private business lobby group the Forum of Private Business, said: "The purpose of Christmas parties is to encourage team spirit, encourage relationships and so on.

"If you tie them down with pettifogging regulations, you really undermine the whole thing you are trying to achieve. It is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

Mr Goulding said most people relied on commonsense to enjoy themselves and the move towards a "rule-based society" should not be accepted.

He warned that fears of potential court cases or charges of sexual harassment ruined the festive spirit.

Limit the drinks

Tim Woodward, an employment law lawyer at the firm of Bevan Brittan, has represented a number of clients involved in fights at Christmas parties.

He urges companies to try to limit the amount of alcohol employees can consume.

"Most, if not all, incidents at Christmas parties, quite unsurprisingly, are caused by excess drinking," he said. "And it certainly is a real problem."

"What staff have to remember is that although most Christmas parties take place outside of work hours and away from the premises, technically it remains a work activity and people can still be sacked because of their behaviour."

Mr Woodward added: "A lot of this is common sense, but a company needs to try and moderate things.

"You do not want to rein in people to such an extent that it is not worth having a party, but I would certainly advise against a firm providing unlimited alcohol.

"If there is endless free booze provided and a member of staff gets involved in a fight, he could use this in his defence at any tribunal."




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