The festive season is upon us again, and with it is the annual Christmas Party. Whilst offices are getting prepared to celebrate another year in business; it is well advised that employers take a moment to consider the potential Employment Law issues that can arise. Legislation is becoming more stringent on an employer’s duty to protect employees, but at this time of year employers must take care to protect staff from unwelcome behaviour and avoid potential Tribunal claims.

Tribunal cases have made it clear that work related events are considered under law as an extension to the workplace, and so Employers could find themselves held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, should the employee’s action be deemed to have been committed in the course of their employment.

Here you can find a brief outline of the recommended “Do’s and Don’ts” of the Christmas party ensuring yours goes off without a hitch;

DO Invite everyone:

To avoid suggestions of discrimination be sure to extend an invite to everyone, no exceptions, including those;

  • Who don’t celebrate Christmas
  • Who are currently off sick
  • Who are on maternity/ paternity leave

DO remind Employees of Company Policies:

Provide a clear policy and remind staff that they will be considered as representing the company and expected to act accordingly, make staff aware of the standard of behaviour that is unacceptable in line with the company policy and be consistent with how you enforce the policy.

DO take reasonable steps to prevent Harassment:

Since the #MeToo movement began the number of claims relating to Harassment in the workplace has risen significantly. It is imperative that employers ensure their Harassment policies are up-to-date and employees are made aware of them.

We urge employers to remind employees they should not harass, that harassment will not be tolerated, with the possibility of facing disciplinary action and personal liability for compensation as a consequence. It is still all too common for complaints to arise, particularly after the Christmas party due to touching, offensive comments and other inappropriate behaviour, with excessive alcohol consumption being a common explanation for these actions.

Prior to the event it is important that employers have the difficult conversation with employees regarding dignity at work, and respecting colleagues. This is best done at:

  • Staff meetings
  • Team meetings
  • Toolbox talks

Or other such regular meetings and can be used as a critical reminder to prevent behaviour like this in the future.

DO cater for all Employees

Give careful consideration to where your event will be held, ensuring that it caters for all employees, including:

  • Dietary requirements
  • Employees under 18 years old
  • Wheelchair access

DO make Employees aware of the Company Social Media Policy:

Make sure your social media policy is up to date. Remind all employees in advance of the policy and the consequences of posting pictures, videos or messages online that could harm the reputation of the company or infringe on other colleagues privacy rights.

DON’T force attendance:

Remember not all religions celebrate Christmas, whilst others may not wish to celebrate or simply don’t enjoy social situations, don’t put pressure on anyone to attend. It’s also important to be mindful of employee’s commitments and responsibilities outside work that may prevent them from attending.

DON’T discuss remuneration:

Avoid discussions relating to performance, promotion, salary or career prospects. Don’t make promises that cannot be fulfilled, a promise made at the Christmas party is still a promise even if the employer cannot remember the conversation.

DON’T participate in potentially offensive conversations:

Avoid speaking about religion, politics or money, people tend to have strong opinions in these areas and a discussion could lead to arguments or tension between colleagues. Employers and employees should also avoid partaking in workplace gossip; the consequences could be more harmful than anticipated.

DON’T encourage excessive drinking

Whilst it is ok to buy your staff a round of drinks to show your appreciation for their hard work, take careful consideration when deciding how much free alcohol you are willing to provide. Providing a free bar for the evening could imply that you condone unacceptable behaviour that results from excessive alcohol intake. It is equally important to supply non-alcoholic alternatives for those who do not wish consume alcohol.

DON’T forget Health and Safety

Make sure you have carried out a risk assessment on the venue, consider any action required to protect employees during and after the event, e.g. think about how employees will get home. Circulate advice to employees prior to the event reminding them to make travel arrangements and that drinking and driving should not be considered an option. Employers may be held responsible for employees driving home from an office party. Think about providing transportation for staff, e.g. coaches or taxi’s.

Whilst the Christmas party is a time to celebrate and be merry, we urge employers to be mindful of the above points, making sure company policies are up-to-date and you have taken all the reasonable steps to avoid potential Tribunal claims.