Celebrating Halloween has become more and more popular in recent years, with many businesses joining in the fun with spooky costumes, creepy decorations, and haunting games. However, as with many other celebrations taking place at work, there are some HR horrors employers should be wary of.
When people dress up, there’s always the chance someone else could take offence at a choice of costume. Employers should be sure to inform employees that dressing up in way that stereotypes a race, religion or nationality could lead to a discrimination claim under the Equality Act 2010.
Remember, the Act includes relatively minor religions which shouldn’t be taken less seriously just because they’re less mainstream. A Wiccan employee won a discrimination case after she claimed she was mocked and dismissed after switching her shifts to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve.
Trick or treat should be left outside the workplace. Halloween pranks will most likely be inappropriate and can lead to people becoming offended, or worse, injured.
A known example is when an employee was dismissed when it was found that she had placed an image of a witch as a screensaver on a colleague’s computer after they had fallen out.
As with many seasonal events, Halloween is a good excuse to have a party. However, as ever, employees coming into work hungover and unable to do their job is unacceptable. It should be made clear to employees that disciplinary action will be taken if they cannot do their job and it can be proven to be because of their hangover.
Being absent due to a hangover is also a conduct issue, if an investigation can prove that they are absent because of their excessive drinking.
Employers should include a social media policy in their employee handbook. Naturally, if pictures of any potentially discriminatory costumes or Halloween pranks make it online, the consequences can reach far wider than just the other employees in the office.
Employees should be reminded that what’s posted on social media is reflective of the organisation as whole, and posts in particular bad taste have the potential to go viral and cause reputational damage to a company.