One of our clients is going to allow staff to attend work in fancy dress for Christmas as a way of boosting morale, what sort of things do they need to consider?
Whilst allowing staff to attend work in fancy dress for any special event can be an effective way to boost morale and develop a sense of camaraderie, there are several things our client should consider in order to avoid a situation.
Perhaps the biggest concern when it comes to allowing fancy dress at work is the potential for workplace discrimination. After all, it doesn’t take much to imagine how certain costumes may create an intimidating or hostile environment for employees with a protected characteristic. Therefore, to avoid this situation, our client should warn staff prior to the event against wearing costumes that make specific reference to issues such as race, age or gender.
At the same time, there may be certain individuals who are unwilling to wear fancy dress in celebration of any special event, such as Halloween for example and our client should think about how this will affect them. Naturally, these individuals shouldn’t be forced into participating, nor should they be subjected to bullying or any other detriment for refusing to take part.
Our client should also consider the image that allowing staff to participate in fancy dress portrays to customers and business partners, as there is a risk that this activity could cause considerable damage the company’s reputation. Therefore, our client should re-evaluate whether this would truly be appropriate under the circumstances.
Furthermore, if it is not managed correctly then allowing staff to participate in fancy dress may actually lead to a reduction in productivity, with the more relaxed atmosphere potentially resulting in individuals allowing their usual work standards to drop. As our client will still want to ensure staff do their job on the day, they should remind employees of the standards expected of them. Any behaviour such as individuals arriving late, or refusing to follow reasonable managerial instructions, should be dealt with in the normal manner in line with our client’s pre-existing policies.
With the above in mind, it is important that our client has the correct provisions in place in order to reduce the risks accompanied with allowing fancy dress at work. Whilst this may prove to be an effective way of developing a sense of camaraderie, failing to manage the situation effectively on the other hand could create a host of problems for our client. 
 Reproduced with permission of Croner Taxwise