1st December 2019

Avoiding Christmas Party Legal Hangovers

Avoiding Christmas Party Legal Hangovers can be a nightmare and with the office Christmas Party season in full swing.

So, how do employers survive the festive season without mishap and possible legal action?

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.  Send an email to “all staff” reminding them 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 e.g. harassment or inappropriate behaviour.  Managers and staff should be aware of them and trained.

The Christmas party is not compulsory.  If you are going to have one,  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
  • 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.  State that harassment or inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated.  Remember, employers can be held responsible for employees’ actions.

For some events, employees need to attend work the following day.  This means your policies need to be in place.  They should clearly state you 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.

Some employees forget the Christmas party is still a work event.   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. 

Having policies will help mitigate against the employee who has had one or two drinks too many and who has done or said the wrong thing.

Employers  should give themselves “additional protection” by ensuring all staff are made fully aware of company policies. For example Equal Opportunities, Diversity, Bullying and Harassment.

This time of year is great time for everyone to get together to have a good time.  If employers follow our suggestions, there should be no lasting legal hangovers from the Christmas party!

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