With just a couple of weeks of work left until Christmas, attention is turning to the Christmas party in workplaces up and down the country. Without wanting to be seen as the “fun police”, it would be useful to take a few minutes to consider some issues that may cause an employer difficulty.
While the Christmas party can be a great time of fun with colleagues, it can also be fraught with difficulty for employers. When alcohol is involved, people sometimes act in ways that they would never behave in the workplace. The Christmas party is an extension of the workplace and an employer can be liable for the actions of employees at work Christmas parties.
If alcohol is permitted, employees should be encouraged to drink in moderation. Employees should be reminded in advance of the party of the organisation’s policies on equal opportunities and anti-harassment. A wise employer will remind employees that any actions that could be deemed to be aggressive or threatening or may constitute harassment of another employee will be dealt with immediately in accordance with the disciplinary procedure and may warrant dismissal.
Employers who take all reasonable steps to ensure that employees are protected from harassment will have a statutory defence to any Tribunal claim brought by an employee who feels that they have been the victim of harassment. It is therefore important to take some time to remind employees of the relevant policies and their specific applicability to the Christmas party. Employees should also be advised that they can be held personally liable for acts of discrimination and/or harassment against other members of staff.
So, from an employment law perspective, the message ahead of the Christmas party is – “Have a good time but make sure you treat everyone with the same dignity and respect that you show during a normal working day.”
Have a great Christmas!
This article is intended as a guide and for general information only and is not a substitute for taking specific advice relating to your situation. For specific advice regarding this or any other issue relating to employment law, please do not hesitate to contact us.