Is your office’s Christmas party going ahead? No? Become an MP.
It’s annoying that, given the restrictions we’ve been subjected to over the last couple of years, our Christmas socials and festive parties may still not look like they did before the pandemic occurred.
This year, the overriding reason is not the nasty Covid virus, but the tremendous pressure many businesses are under as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.
Companies are fighting to keep their heads above water, with sectors such as hospitality, leisure and travel (again) taking the biggest hit. Less disposable income means a cut back on spending, whether you’re an individual or a business. If a company is struggling to pay a winter energy bill that’s triple—if not quadruple—what it would normally be, for example, it’s common sense that there won’t be any money left in the coffers for a good old knees-up come Christmastime.
A (subsidised) Christmas party/meal/activity has always been a way for company owners to thank their loyal staff for their hard work throughout the year. The festive period, for many sectors—particularly retail—is a busy time, and the Christmas period is an excuse for everyone to let their hair down. This year, however, it may be a different story, even for larger companies. Pared down parties and bring-your-own-booze get-togethers may be more common than in previous years, but they’re better than the only other option—which is completely doing away with any sort of celebration. It’s a sad but necessary solution in this fragile economy.
Compare this situation with that of our government, however, which has been given the go-ahead by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to include Christmas party costs on their expenses’ sheets.
The poor, poor taxpayer. Working all hours God sends just to get through this winter without declaring bankruptcy or falling seriously ill (whether an employee or an employer)—yet MPs can enjoy their Christmas parties without any worry over who’s footing the bill.
Rishi Sunak has apparently warned government officials that food, refreshments and decorations cannot go on the list for reimbursement, but he said nothing about venue hire, travel expenses and entertainment costs being footed by the general public. And what would billionaire Sunak know about Christmas party costs? In his world, M&S caviar would constitute cutting back, whilst the rest of us will likely have to pay for own sausage rolls with our already-sparse wages. There’s a cost-of-living crisis? Not in Westminster, clearly.
Some MPs have insisted that IPSA’s decision was unnecessary, as no one had approached them to make such a call. They felt it was in poor taste to make this announcement in the current economic climate. Whether that’s true or not—after all, when have you ever known MPs to lie?!—is something we’ll let you decide.
There are ways in which companies can cut back on the expense associated with a Christmas party. Playing games and having a bite to eat in the office is not as good as booking out the function room of a local hotel, if that’s what you’ve always done, but you would still be able to have a good time and get into the Christmas spirit. Limiting the guest list to employees only (rather than plus ones/partners too) will also shave pounds off the party bill; few people would object to such a move this Christmas.
It’s not ideal and, hopefully, Christmas 2023 will give us much more reason to celebrate—preferably, no hint of a virus and a much more stable economy in the UK. We’ve got it on good knowledge that Novus is on Santa’s good list—we’ll just ask him to arrange it…