I've just started a new job, which I'm enjoying. I recently received an email, asking all employees to choose what they would like to eat at the work Christmas party. I personally would not choose to go to such an event, as I tend to avoid social activities like these, however, the event is during working hours.
I responded to the email (to the sender, not all) asking if the event was optional, to which I was told 'no', and that if I really didn't want to go (I don't), I would have to take the afternoon off as holiday.
This seems unfair to me, and I'm not sure what my options are. I feel I shouldn't have to take holiday to avoid a social event, and I think it's weird that this event even happens within working hours - I should be doing my job instead of attending a social event that I don't care for, and isn't related to my role.
So, my questions is this: is my company allowed to force me to take holiday to avoid the event? If they're not, what should my next course of action be? What can I do to avoid the party?
This is within the UK, at a small company of around 15-30 employees.
The event is being held outside of the office, so no going back to my desk as soon as I can.