Monthly Archives: December 2010

Santa is coming to town

We are organising the annual Christmas party, and a Mr Klaus has agreed to be our entertainer. After last year’s party (congratulations on the baby, Miss Smith) we thought it would be a good idea to lay down some ground rules so we don’t get into trouble with any of this equality stuff.

  1. Don’t tell Santa he’s fat. We don’t know if this is from over eating, or caused by some kind of medical problem. But we don’t want him to raise a disability harassment claim against us – so just don’t mention it at all.
  2. If you know anyone qualified to do a risk assessment on the chimney before he climbs down it, please contact HR – we don’t seem to have a checklist for this.
  3. Don’t talk about Santa’s age. We know he is over our usual retirement age for employees, but you must not make any remarks which might get us into trouble with an age discrimination claim.
  4. Don’t talk about how much he is getting paid. We don’t want an equal pay claim from Mrs Santa or the Elves.
  5. Try not to mention pensions. Santa is already complaining about his mean pension plan, and the number of centuries he has had to work. We don’t want him finding out about the Executive Pension plan and its perks.
  6. Don’t let any women sit on his knee – even if they seem to be enjoying it. We don’t want any sexual harassment claims this year. We had enough trouble last year when our ex-Finance Director claimed that he was Santa and made the marketing assistants sit on his knee – that cost us a fortune.
  7. Don’t let any men sit on his knee – we can’t have then men enjoying something the women aren’t allowed to do.
  8. Don’t make any remarks about the men who want to sit on Santa’s knee. Everyone is entitled to their own orientation, and a preference for men from the North is not to be joked about.
  9. There are rumours (unfounded, of course) that Santa likes to sit children on his knee. Such behaviour may bring our business into disrepute, and if you see any attempt at such behaviour you must report it immediately. The fact that you like to behave childishly does not give you the right to sit on Santa’s knee either.
  10. You may notice that some of the Elves are green. You must not make any remark about their colour, or where they come from. We don’t want any race discrimination claims.
  11. Please don’t ask Santa what his religion is or what this has to do with Christmas. We had enough of religious discrimination complaints last year when that girl from finance claimed she had a right to eat as much as she liked because her religion was food. But even so, to suggest that it was “only a joke” to make her eat the nativity donkey was going a bit far.
  12. Don’t insist on Santa eating a mince pie and having a glass of sherry. We don’t know whether Santa’s beliefs allow him to consume alcohol. And maybe the mince pies haven’t been stored at a safe temperature. Much better not to offer him anything at all while he is on our premises.
  13. Some of you may not have read our new policy in bribery and gifts. You must not accept any gifts from Santa under any circumstances. This is an office party, and Santa is acting in his official capacity, so the acceptance of gifts will be deemed a gross misconduct offence.
  14. While we are talking about gross misconduct, Santa owns the copyright in his image and you may not take any photographs or him or his elves or your colleagues without a written release form, signed in advance in triplicate. Whoever posted that photo on the internet of our Sales Director without his trousers is not going to get away with it again. We are monitoring all emails and social networks just to be sure.

Remember, folks, the purpose of the office party is to relax and have a good time! But we will be keeping our employment law advisors on emergency standby just in case.

Seasons greetings from HR.

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website : You can follow Annabel on twitter –


Filed under discrimination, employment law, free stuff

Learn to reverse park

I was watching someone try to park in a very small London space.  He was obviously from out of town — Londoners learn to park very quickly or take public transport.

He reversed slowly into a space that wasn’t quite long enough. He got stuck at an odd angle (I do it all the time!) and pulled forward and tried again. He had the wheels at exactly the same angle, started in the same place, and unsurprisingly the same thing happened again.

A few curious people in the nearby coffee shop looked on as he went backwards and forwards, laboriously, in the slush covered road. The driver was obviously getting increasingly frustrated. Suddenly, without any warning, he reversed rapidly, wheels spinning in the slush. He ran straight into the car parked behind him.

He got out, yelling and cursing. One of the coffee drinkers got up and asked him why he had just run into his parked car. Heated and colourful words were exchanged, and the police were called.

When the police arrived, he man who couldn’t park made a great deal of street theatre for us all. He called to everyone around to witness that he, a black man, (as he called himself) was being arrested for no reason other than his colour and that parking restrictions should not exist.

The man’s colour is of no consequence here, but his attitude is. How often have we tried something that didn’t work, repeated the same thing, got cross, done something stupid, and blamed someone else, stupid rules and regulations?

A lot of people deal with their staff that way. We have a team member who doesn’t seem to be performing very well. We do something we think will fix the problem. It doesn’t. We keep doing the same thing for a while, get cross, and then we do something stupid because we are angry and frustrated. Then we blame employment law for penalising our behaviour.

There are always going to be some kind of laws, from parking to employment, that restrict what we can do. The sensible thing to do is to learn the skills and behaviour that get you what you want.

If you are feeling that moment of frustration about someone who works for you, it might be a good time to sit down and have a cup of coffee with me (we do remote coffee, as well as in person) and figure out a strategy to get what you want that avoids dinging your business or getting yourself into trouble with the law.

And if you happen to be able to teach me how to reverse park that would be a real bonus!

Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website : You can follow Annabel on twitter –

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Filed under employment law, free stuff, performance management