How to run a work social: Tips for success

Posted on December 6, 2022
Posted by Marion Kennedy

How to run a work socialIt’s the final month of the year and a popular time for businesses to host staff socials, celebrating the upcoming holidays and a successful year completed. When considering how to run a work social, it’s important to be inclusive, make sure staff are aware of how you expect them to behave, and bear in mind any tax consequences of running your social.

In this blog, we share tips on how to run a successful work social, whether during the festive period or at any time throughout the year. 

1. Pick a suitable time and place for the work social

Whilst it may be difficult to find a date that suits all employees, you can increase attendance by picking a date, time and venue that is more likely to suit your staff. For example, staff who have children may not be able to stay late into the evening, so starting the work social earlier in the afternoon may help. Venues must also be accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities. 

It’s a good idea to choose a venue close to your business premises if possible, and ensure there are sufficient transport links for staff members to travel home to afterwards. Notify the attendees beforehand if they may need to make other transport arrangements (like booking taxis).

2. Take steps to include all staff 

Inclusivity is essential to make employees feel that they are accepted, respected, and appreciated within their workplace and the larger organisation. Ways to include staff and minimise the risk of discrimination when planning your social include:

  • inviting all staff to work socials, including those who work remotely or are on annual, maternity, or paternity leave (you don’t have to invite freelancers or other self-employed staff although of course you can if you wish); 
  • considering any special religious or cultural days to avoid clashes; and
  • offering a variety of food, as well as non-alcoholic beverages. It might be helpful to send a survey to attendees beforehand to make sure you cater to all food and drink requirements.

3. Set policies around staff behaviour at the work social

While you want to ensure that your staff relax and have a good time at your social, it’s important that staff are aware this is a work function and that they must behave accordingly. This is particularly important as your business can be held legally responsible for the actions of staff at work socials in some circumstances. To limit the likelihood of problems arising, make sure your policies and training are up to date and that staff are aware of them before the social. 

It is worth explicitly reminding staff of the relevant policies guiding behaviour in your staff handbook and manuals, such as your disciplinary policy, anti-bullying policy, drugs and alcohol, and social media policy. Note that if you have made changes to your policies, these must be specifically brought to your staff members’ attention prior to the event. 

Excessive alcohol consumption may increase the likelihood of bad behaviour at your work social. You can discourage excessive drinking by regulating alcohol consumption (perhaps by using a token system, closing the bar at a certain point in the night, providing food etc). You may wish to designate certain members of your management team to remain sober and keep an eye on alcohol consumption among your staff, as well as ensuring that they leave the venue safely. 

4. Plan the costs and be aware of tax rules to run your work social

It is typical (although not required) for the business to cover most, if not all, of the costs of a work social. If you are asking your staff to contribute directly to the cost of a social event, you normally can’t deduct sums directly from their wages unless you are authorised by their contract, or they have given prior written consent. 

You should also note that unless certain criteria are met, costs spent on work social events for staff must be reported to HMRC and tax must be paid on them. It’s recommended to keep your work events within the criteria that allow them to be tax free:

  1. You must invite every member of your staff in your business, or if you operate across a number of locations, every staff member at the particular location, although you aren’t required to invite freelancers or other self-employed staff. If your workforce is organised into different departments at a particular location, you can have separate events for each department as long as every staff member at the location has access to an event;
  2. The party must be a recurring annual event (not a one-off event like a 25th company anniversary;
  3. The total cost per head must be £150 or less. The total cost per head is the entire cost (including VAT) of food, drink, entertainment, transport, venue hire, accommodation and other expenses, divided by the number of people attending. If the cost of a relevant social is £150 or less per head, it is completely tax free. However, if you go over £150 per head, you must pay tax on the whole amount (not just the amount that exceeds £150) for every staff member at their specific tax rate. 

For more detailed guidance on staff parties, our Q&A on staff social events and parties has got you covered. 

The content in this article is up to date at the date of publishing. The information provided is intended only for information purposes, and is not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Sparqa Legal’s Terms of Use apply.