A Shropshire employment lawyer is warning bosses to treat the work Christmas party in the same way as the workplace when it comes to the risk of Covid-19.
Specialist Kate Jones has issued the warning following reports that many businesses have cancelled their parties altogether amid concerns over the new omicron variant of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Dr Jenny Harries for the UK Health Security Agency has said people need to be careful and not socialise when they do not particularly need to.
Ms Jones, an associate at mfg Solicitors, advises employers on a range of matters including health and safety. She said bosses needed to think about the risk of their workforce all being struck with Covid – and what that would mean both for business and staff safety.
She said: “The work Christmas party is a highlight of the year, particularly after they couldn’t go ahead at all last year, but this really isn’t the time to throw caution to the wind.
“Christmas parties tend to be indoors and crowded – two of the conditions that make Covid more transmissible – and the biggest risk is that the whole workforce could be hit at the same time.
“Employers must remember that the party is an extension of the workplace and they have a duty to protect health and safety.”
Ms Jones added there were simple precautions bosses could take to reduce the risk.
“The sensible thing to do is hold smaller team level celebrations, with people mixing with those they already spend the working day with rather than the whole company in one place,” she said.
“Organisers should also review the venue and check there’s plenty of space and ventilation. Holding the party in an outdoor space with everyone wrapped up warm would minimise the spread of Covid, even if it might not seem the cosiest of festive get-togethers.
“The easiest thing to do is request everyone take a lateral flow test before coming to the party and to advise any employees who don’t feel well to stay at home.
“And you should keep a record of all the checks you have made to prove you took the necessary steps to keep staff safe.
“The Christmas party is supposed to be a time to let your hair down, but unfortunately the pandemic doesn’t seem to want to take a break and employers have to remember it’s their legal responsibility to do all they can to keep their staff safe.”