Guidance for employers when throwing a christmas party

29 November 2019

The long-held tradition of the works Christmas parties are now in full swing, a chance to forget about work and enjoy relaxing with your colleagues.

Due to fear of the reputational and legal fallout from bad behaviour at parties many employers cut back the plans and introduce measures which shield staff.

Although this is a festive, jolly occasion, it can be ruined with excessive consumption of alcohol which leads to uncharacteristic behaviour!

Employers have a duty of care and can be held vicariously liable for the acts of their employees even though they are not at work.  This is because events organised by the company become an extension of the work place and any conduct that takes place during those events can be considered to be done ‘during the course of employment’ and this may extend to conduct before and after the event if there is a connection to the event arranged by the employer ( Clive Bellman -v- Northampton Recruitment Limited 2018).

A few points to consider:

  1. Invite all employees to the party including those on sickness, maternity and paternity leave.
  2. Direct your employees to the staff handbook policies and procedures on conduct so they understand, any inappropriate behaviour such as excessive drunkenness, the use of illegal drugs, Bullying and harassment, violence, serious verbal abuse, or assault of either another employee or a third party may lead to disciplinary may lead to disciplinary action and that the company’s disciplinary procedures will apply irrespective of the fact that they are not at work. Ensure employees are made aware of the grievance procedures.
  3. For those employees who will be consuming alcohol, you may wish to remind them not to drink and drive! It may be worth considering putting restrictions in place to prevent excessive alcohol intake. For example, not allowing a free bar, limit this to one or two drinks instead or drinks vouchers.
  4. Employers owe all of their staff a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act. This duty extends to functions organised by the company including Christmas parties.   Employers can be held directly liable under common law if they do not take reasonable care of employees and their guests attending work parties.  It may be advisable to consider transport to and from remote venues or if not arrange for taxis but advise staff that they will be liable for the cost of this.
  5. Employers should avoid discussing career prospects, salaries and benefits with employees.
  6. If you’re thinking of adopting a dress code for the work Christmas party, please ensure this is not discriminatory against employees of a particular religion or belief. Offer alternatives to the traditional options and do not make attendance at the Christmas party compulsory.
  7. Avoid post party absenteeism by reinforcing that a hangover is an unacceptable reason for absence regardless of the fact that is a work event.
  8. With all of the social networking sites available it is inevitable that some staff will want to make public the night’s events. Ensure that you set out the rules on your social media policy. Employees must be mindful of the company when posting any comments or photographs on social media sites.
  9. Consider appointing a designated manager to refrain from alcohol who can deal with incidents if they arise.

If you need any further advice on Christmas parties, please give us a call on 0333 240 7208 or contact us.

Have an enjoyable time with your colleagues.

Happy Christmas from Quest Business Services!

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