Avoid the Christmas Legal Hangover 2014

  • Liz Jackson

Avoid the Christmas Legal Hangover 2014

The office Christmas Party season is in full swing.

It’s a fun time but the festive celebrations can become a legal minefield for employers if things get out of hand.

That’s why employers need to make sure that they have appropriate policies in place to deal with the potential fall-out so we have prepared a helpful guide so you can all  have fun, while reminding employers of their legal obligations.

It’s all about organisations planning ahead so that everyone can let their hair down but employees know in advance what behaviour will not be tolerated. Don’t forget employers can be vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts/comments of their employees, even when at social events. There are many things to consider and, obviously, alcohol issues are high up the list as is discrimination.

However, if employers have guidelines in place and policies on, for example, harassment or inappropriate behaviour, and staff are made aware of them, then possible legal pitfalls can be avoided.

The Christmas party is not compulsory but if having one, here is a list of measures to combat legal problems arising from corporate festivities that include:

• Plan ahead and consider who is to be invited – is it all staff or staff plus partners? Don’t forget there may be same sex partners and non-Christian faiths

• Consider food and refreshment requirements for the various religions attending – provide options

• Limit the amount of alcohol available to ensure a duty of care towards staff

• Offer non-alcoholic alternatives for those who don’t drink or are under 18

• Nominate designated drivers or provide transport to get staff home safely

• Have clear guidelines and policies in place stating that harassment or inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated – remember, employers are responsible for employees’ actions

It’s better, but not always possible, to have a function at the end of the working week. This means employment policies need to be in place clearly stating that they expect staff to be at work the day after a party if this is a working day – and that they are in a fit state to work.

As an employer give yourselves “additional protection” by ensuring all staff are made fully aware of company policies in areas such as Equal Opportunities and Diversity, and Bullying and Harassment.

We are finding the unauthorised use of a company’s credit/debit card is happening more and more with some startling results where a member of staff has been authorised to use the company’s credit/debit card at social events and spends far more than expected and not necessarily on the intended social event.  This is another area where employers should ensure their company is properly protected and have clear guidelines as to what is and is not acceptable expenditure.

It is vital that employers have the right policies in place for their organisation.

This time of year is great time for everyone to get together to have a good time and if employers follow our suggestions, there should be no lasting hangover and the festivities will be remembered for all the right reasons.

Enjoy Christmas!

 

Require help with your policies and procedures?  Contact us on 01738 632 561 and we will work with you, for you to ensure you have the correct pl;ocies in place for your organisation.