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The return of the Christmas party challenges Covid-wary firms - New comments from Caroline Walker in The Financial Times

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people gathered in the same room, alcohol flowing, dancing, everybody dipping their hands onto the same trays of canapés, coronavirus particles flying through the air – the nightmarish public health advert writes itself.

Yet after 18 months of virtual hangouts and Zoom quizzes, the office Christmas party is making something of a comeback as many European countries return to a relative form of normality. 

“It remains the case that individuals have different levels of anxiety regarding Covid-19 and the employers need to keep this in mind,” says Caroline Walker, Managing Director of Cavendish Employment Law in a recent Financial Times article.

Although masks remain mandatory in social settings in many European countries, other countries such as England and Sweden have opted for a more relaxed approach.

Ms Walker says: “Best-practice employers will be sympathetic to the anxiety of employees and provide the option to opt out of attending large indoor gatherings for those with genuine concerns or health issues.

“Similarly, those who prefer to socially distance or wear a mask at the events should be encouraged to do so.”

However, she adds that “the general consensus is that the high vaccine take-up, coupled with regular testing, is enough to provide sufficient reassurance and enable employees to attend office parties without having to wear masks or socially distance”.

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