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The perils of the Christmas party season for employers


In the lead up to December and the party season, it can be easy to get carried away with the merry festivities. At this time of year, employers should take a moment to consider the potential employment law issues and go over existing company policies.

Where ever the office Christmas party takes place, the location should always be considered an extension of the workplace and employees should be reminded that they are representing the business and are still expected to act accordingly. Employers themselves may be vicariously liable for incidents that take place at work-related social events and could face tribunal claims. 

Employers should remind staff of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour at staff social events as well as highlighting the likely consequences of such behaviour. Employers should provide a clear policy and consider issuing a statement to all employees prior to any work related social events.

Additionally, employers should consider their duty of care to employees and must consider how they will get home after work-related social events. Advice should be issued prior to an event about not drinking and driving and employers could consider hiring coaches or minibuses for the end of the event.

Be sensible...and a bit sober

  • Designate responsibility for supervising to specific managers. They should be on hand for any instances that may arise. The supervisors should be advised that they themselves are required to stay sober.

  • Employers will usually provide free drinks for employees however a free bar will encourage excessive alcohol intake. It is advisable to limit the supply of free alcohol and offer low-alcohol alternatives, water and soft drinks. You may consider offering drink tokens to regulate consumption.

  • At an office party the professional line is often blurred however the normal rules of gross misconduct apply. Common examples of Christmas party gross misconduct are violence, harassment, and damage to property. If there is an incident which is sufficiently connected to work, and will therefore impact on the working situation, employers should commence a disciplinary investigation regarding the matter.
  • Employers should prevent discrimination complaints by being careful not to exclude workers on maternity leave, offer reasonable adjustments or physical assistance for disabled employees and offer suitable food and alcohol alternatives to suit all employee requirements. 

More information

If you require further advice and guidance on preparing your staff for the festive season or would like us to review existing policies, please contact our Employment Law Department. call us or email by using the form to the right. 

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