• Liz Jackson

Avoiding Christmas Party Legal Hangovers

Avoiding Christmas Party Legal Hangovers can be a nightmare and with the office Christmas Party season in full swing, how do employers survive the festive season without mishap and possible legal action?

We have released a helpful list so that your employees can have fun while reminding you, the employer, of your legal obligations.

It’s all about planning ahead so that everyone can let their hair down but with your employees knowing, in advance, what behaviours will not be tolerated. Don’t forget, as an employer, you can be vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts and /or comments of your employees, even when attending social events which is why the annual email to “all staff” should be sent reminding everyone to have fun and enjoy the evening but importantly to remember they are still representatives of the company.

There are of course many things to consider with alcohol issues obviously high up the list as is discrimination.

We recommend all employers have guidelines in place and policies on, for example, harassment or inappropriate behaviour, and staff are made aware of them.

The Christmas party is not compulsory but if you are going to have one, then here is a list measures to mitigate against legal problems arising from corporate festivities

  • 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 in the team
  • 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

For some events, employees need to attend work the following day.  This means your policies need to be in place, clearly stating they expect staff to be at work the day after a party where this is a working day – and that they are in a fit state to work.

The mistake  some employees make is that they forget the Christmas party is still a work event and that they are being both judged and watched by their superiors and therefore held accountable for their actions. The more information provided, the less likely the employee can use ‘I forgot’ as an excuse.

It is vital you have the right policies in place for your organisation to help mitigate against the employee who has had one or two drinks too many and and who has done or said the wrong thing.

We also recommend  employers  give themselves “additional protection” by ensuring all staff are made fully aware of company policies in areas such as Equal Opportunities and Diversity, Bullying and Harassment.

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 hangovers as you will be avoiding Christmas party legal hangovers with ease and the festivities will be remembered for all the right reasons.

If you require any assistance with your policies and procedures, please contact us on 01738 632561 or 01382 211222

Tags: employment law,Fairways HR,vicarious liability,