February 18th, 2015 / Insight posted in

Halloween in the Workplace, Trick or Treat for HR?

By Amy Haley So, Halloween is approaching and aside from Christmas, it is fast becoming the most popular holiday of the year. Should employers join in the celebrations? Costumes are recognised as one of the most common traditions of Halloween, but how far will you let your employees go, that is if you agree they can indulge at all? If you have plans to go to a Halloween party this year, you might expect to see a witch, a zombie or for those that have an alter-ego as a superhero maybe a Batman or a Catwoman, but, what is acceptable in the workplace? Halloween can throw up a whole host of questions: Should guidelines or boundaries be put in place prior to the event so that it mitigates the risk that colleagues take offence if certain costumes are considered to be distasteful, religious or political? Are you happy for celebrations to be taken further to include office pranks – what could be deemed as bullying and harassment? Does the Company dress code still apply and if not followed could it still lead to disciplinary action? How far can the policy be stretched before we decide what is not appropriate? Do you trust your staff to use their common sense as to what is deemed acceptable? If the business has customer facing roles, do you have separate guidelines for different positions within the Company? Reflecting on the above I would suggest setting guidelines about conduct, dress code, and perhaps set a theme if you are allowing staff to come to work for the day in costume. Setting the boundaries now may prevent an issue or awkward situation from occurring later. We would all like to think that our employees understand that what they may wear to a private Halloween party outside of work may not always be appropriate for the office. This holiday is all about having fun, so have fun with it and remember your managers are there to ensure company policy does not get forgotten amongst all the hocus-pocus.