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Are there some glimmers of festive hope yet for the Office Christmas Party?

Posted by Rebecca English

esIt is no secret that Christmas will be a different one for so many reasons this year. COVID-19 has bulldozed its way through our way of living and working the whole year and it’s ramifications socially, emotionally, economically and professionally will no doubt be felt for years to come.

It is a very different December to last or to what we could have ever expected. Many of us are working from home in makeshift offices, meetings have become virtual and our business attire certainly looks different.

Figures have come out to show that only 19% of companies have planned Christmas gatherings for staff (down from 71% last year who booked venues) and nearly 40% of British businesses have cancelled plans completely. This will have an estimated knock on effect to the hardest hit hospitality sector at a further £717million in lost revenue the average company spend on employees of £49.90 for their end of year celebrations.

But that doesn’t mean that we can simply let COVID-19 become The Grinch who stole Christmas.

Whilst the ‘normal’ Christmas party will not be going ahead, there are in fact a number of other ways to spread a little festive cheer, and this year we certainly need it!

BDO has published an article detailing that in fact HMRC is offering some seasonal goodwill and is extending its staff parties concession this year to apply to costs associated with hosting virtual parties. These concessions will be treated the same way as if the celebrations were usually held; providing food, entertainment, equipment etc. It is important to note that HMRC will still be applying the very strict rules;

  • The cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50
  • The benefit is not cash or a cash voucher (eg a premium bond)
  • The employee is not entitled to the benefit as part of any contractual obligation (including under salary sacrifice)
  • The benefit is not provided in recognition of particular services performed by the employee as part of their employment duties (or in anticipation of such services).

The good news is that much of the costs associated with your virtual office Christmas arty will be tax deductible as with previous years.

Another truly Christmas - spirited and entrepreneurial idea to combat the cancelled parties is Xmas Party Heroes. This is a new campaign urging businesses to donate their redundant Christmas party budget to charity. For many businesses with an unspent budget it is an effective and simple solution which they may not have thought of. Any business can donate to any cause, all you do is let #xmaspartyheroes how much you have pledged so they can keep track of the running total (currently at £1,26m as I write this).

Mark Hawthorn, CEO of Lanmark Group says “We can’t have an Xmas Party, and it didn’t feel fair to just retain the funds as charities are more in need than ever. So, we will simply give the funds (and more) to charity”

Lastly there is of course the option to carry something over to next year where we can all come together and celebrate as one again. Celebrate Christmas, celebrate being together again, celebrate our hard work and efforts of 2020. This is the route we have gone down at Pro Recruitment and like an unopened perfectly wrapped present waiting under the tree that I cannot wait.

However you are celebrating Christmas this year, I wish you a happy and prosperous one.

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