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Employers: Make sure the office Christmas party doesn’t give you a hangover

Employers: Make sure the office Christmas party doesn’t give you a hangover

The Christmas party venue is booked, the tinsel is up and the open bar is fully stocked – what could possibly go wrong?

Without wanting to pour cold water on the fizzing festive mood, most of us have been to enough Christmas parties to know that the answer is quite a lot.

That’s why it is extremely important for employers to take a moment to ensure that their internal policies are up to date and robust as well as carefully managing arrangements for the Christmas party and any resulting fallout.

Because, and another party pooper coming up here, Christmas parties are often treated in law as an extension of the workplace which means employers can be held vicariously liable for the action of employees during the celebrations.

What are common Christmas party mishaps?

We all know that sometimes, when the wine and beer are flowing, people who are letting their hair down don’t necessarily behave in the way they normally would. Examples include:

  • Making offensive or racist remarks.
  • Bullying and out of hand ‘banter’.
  • Asking for a promotion – and then thinking they’ve been promised one.
  • Physical fighting.
  • Making unwanted sexual advances.
  • Not turning up for work the following day.

How do you minimise your employer risks and responsibilities?

Firstly, check out your policies and make sure they are clear on:

  • What is and isn’t acceptable behaviour, whether that’s at work or at the Christmas party.
  • Pay rises and promotions – a clear outline of how these must be formally approved and in writing should help avoid ‘but you promised me at the Christmas party’ scenarios.
  • The disciplinary process – any issues arising from the office party should be dealt with swiftly.
  • Anti-harassment and bullying processes.
  • Equality and Diversity – keeping your staff up to date with training will help direct the finger of blame away from the business towards the employee who has made discriminatory comments in a vicarious liability claim.

How else can employers assess Christmas party risks?

Make sure your employees know before party night what behaviour is and isn’t considered ok.

Ensure they know what’s expected of them in terms of turning up to work the following day.

Avoid any Christmas get together conversations with employees about performance, promotion or salary – employment tribunals have upheld promises of career advancement made to employees by employers at parties after a few drinks.

Get in touch

If you need advice about your employment policies, or if a claim has arisen due to a Christmas party incident, please contact Wards Solicitors’ specialist Employment Team.

Wards Solicitors is recommended as a South West leading firm in the independent Legal 500 list for 2024      Rankings are based on client reviews and feedback.

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