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The festive period is now well under way, with many employers using this time as a way to thank their teams for their hard work during the year by hosting Christmas lunches and parties. These give employees the perfect opportunity to let their hair down, bond and relax. However, as drinks flow, festive antics may leave employees and employers with more of a hangover than they anticipated…

Although employees remain subject to the usual workplace conduct rules, mixing a party atmosphere with alcohol can lead to a loss of inhibitions and inappropriate behaviour. Regardless of the fact that the event may be held away from the workplace and, often out of working hours, a work Christmas lunch or party is regarded as an extension of the workplace in the eyes of the law. As such, employers continue to be legally responsible for the actions and antics of their employees, no matter how crazy or unforeseeable they may appear. If the party continues after the main event, moving to a local bar or nightclub, employers will most likely remain liable for what happens there. Remember the one about the MD who assaulted an employee at an afterparty? The company was liable…

However, don’t let this turn you into a Scrooge. Don’t cancel the Christmas party; just make sure that you follow these tips to stop things getting out of control:

  • Have reliable managers in attendance
  • Consider when to close the free bar
  • Set the expectations before the event
  • Remind employees that it is a work event and work rules and standards of behaviour still apply

If there are allegations of misconduct, don’t brush them under the carpet, investigate promptly and discipline where appropriate. Being proactive will act as a deterrent to bad behaviour, reinforce the standards of behaviour and help to create a safe and healthy environment for your employees.  

Don’t forget, whilst the festive season is in full swing, so is the #metoo movement. The movement has been positive in removing some of the stigma of being a complainant and has given victims the courage to come forward. However, also be wary of malicious complaints and don’t shy away from dealing with those through the disciplinary procedure.

If you are interested in finding out more about the topic above, Rebecca Jorgensen (Partner and Head of Employment) and Rachel Brazier (Strategic HR Project Lead) took part in BBC Radio Kent’s “On the air with…” show where they gave their thoughts and tips on how to survive the office Christmas party. You can listen by following the link: > https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07v5tss

Happy Christmas!

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