Halloween is nearly upon us once again, and of course many workplaces like to join in the fun by hosting parties, wearing spooky costumes, putting up creepy decorations and playing haunting games. However, as with many other celebrations that take place at work, there are some HR horrors employers should be wary of.
There’s no need to be killjoy and cancel Halloween, but being aware of the following issues can make this time of year a lot less terrifying for employers.
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 being upset, 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.
There have also been many high profile sexual harassment cases in the media in recent months. Employees dressing up as a shamed celebrity and acting out the part (even jokingly) is something that should definitely be avoided.
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 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 bad taste have the potential to go viral and cause reputational damage to a company.
Health and safety
Giving the workplace a Halloween theme can be a lot of fun, but it also has the potential to cause accidents. Employees should be mindful of trip hazards from decorations on the floor, long trailing fabric from costumes, and sharp points from swords, axes and other fake weapons! Lit candles intended to create a spooky atmosphere can also be a huge fire hazard.
Managers should be aware of the potential HR issues that Halloween can cause, and be sure to remind employees of company policies in advance of any celebrations. Line managers should also know how to deal with any unacceptable behaviour by being familiar with disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Some final tips are to keep celebrations optional. Some people may not want to take part, so shouldn’t feel forced into it. It may also pay to schedule celebrations so there’s adequate cover for the business’s needs, and so there’s a definite conclusion to the fun and games.