An Employers Guide To Avoiding Christmas Party Issues

  • Author: Yasmin Govan
  • Posted on: 5th December 2018
  • Posted in: Blog

'Tis The Season To Be Silly (At The Work's Festive Party)

So it’s that time of year again, Christmas party season, and while the festivities are heating up I’m here to remind you of the potential pitfalls of ‘silly season’ (from an employment perspective only)!

Whilst it is tempting to let your hair down, unleash your inner party animal and even tell colleagues what you really think of them, the occasion is still seen as being “in the course of employment.”

This means that disciplinary action can be taken against employees who display bad behaviour during, or even after, the Christmas party.

A recent Court of Appeal ruling has come at just the right time to remind employers that they could be liable for anything that happens at work functions that take place off work premises. The case held that a recruitment company was liable after its managing director punched an employee, causing brain damage, during their Christmas staff party.

As an employer, there is a defence if you can prove that you took all possible steps to stop the act from occurring.

Here are some important ‘do’s’ and don'ts to help safeguard you, your business and your employees: 

Top Tips for the works Christmas Party

1. Remind staff of expected behaviour

Simply send an email prior to the Christmas do, reminding employees that the party’s location is an extension of the workplace and the potential actions which could lead to disciplinary proceedings. Employees should also be reminded of the Company’s social media policy (if any), and to avoid posting several photos of colleagues in ‘party mode’ appearing on the internet.

2. Conduct a workplace party risk assessment

If the party is being held on work premises, the employer is responsible for making sure that the property is safe for such an event and that the area for the party has been risk assessed.

3. Control the amount of free alcohol available

Place a limit on what’s being offered, or don’t serve high alcohol spirits. This is due to the fact that if an employee becomes injured as a direct result of consuming too much alcohol, there could be implications for the employer in terms of potential claims.

4. Ensure the event is not discriminatory

The Christmas party should accommodate everyone, which means:

  • Making sure disabled staff can access all parts of the event
  • There is a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks available for non-drinkers
  • Cultural, religious and medical dietary requirements are taken into account
  • Not all staff members may celebrate Christmas, so be sensitive to this fact when planning the festivities.

5. Arrange transport home

It’s essential that employees can get home safely, so either pre-arrange transport or ensure that licensed taxis are available.

6. Communicate your ‘morning after’ policy

Inform employees well in advance of any special working arrangements that there may be for the morning after the events, for example, starting later or having the next morning, or day, off.

Make sure your employees are aware of what is and is not acceptable. Remind them of the importance of not driving under the influence of alcohol from the night before as, in certain circumstances, the employer can be prosecuted as well as the employee in relation to driving offences committed the morning after the event.

So now you know how to prepare for the party, what's next?

There are many potential pitfalls when it comes to the work Christmas party, but with some careful planning and clear communication of your Company's expectations, you can enjoy the festive season with your staff. Should you encounter any issues, there is help at hand and it's better to seek legal advice as soon as possible to know how to handle the matter in the best way moving forward.

If you would like to find out more about this subject or have an employment law matter that you wish to discuss, then please get in touch for a FREE, confidential 30-minute consultation.  Call 01273 734 600 or email advice@crosbywoods.co.uk