Tis’ the season to be jolly: the works Christmas party season

The office Christmas party season can be a minefield for business owners’ and HR, especially with alcohol flowing and staff keen to let their hair down in a less formal environment.  As a result, this can sometimes lead to inappropriate behaviour.

The case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment raised the question of whether a company was vicariously liable for serious injuries caused by an employee after a works Christmas party. 

In the conclusion of this case the court found it wasn’t but only because the injuries occurred after the official Christmas party had ended and the employee had gone on elsewhere to carry on drinking.  Had it occurred during the party, the company would have been found liable.  

This case serves as a timely reminder that companies should reiterate to their employees what constitutes as improper behaviour at company events and the possible implications.

Here are a few noteworthy tips to avoid any New Year disciplinaries:

  • Remember as an employer you remain responsible for your employee’s actions.  Legislation refers to the term “in the course of employment”.
  • Remind your employees that normal office rules do apply even if the party is ‘off site’.
  • Remind your employees that they should maintain appropriate standards of behaviour, not just towards each other but also towards the staff at the venue where the party is being held.  Alcohol can often ‘loosen tongues’ so ensure staff are aware of the implications of bad mouthing colleagues or giving away business secrets.
  • Importantly, be clear on how to deal with inappropriate conduct.  Revisit your disciplinary policy and process.
  • Drink drive bans will affect the workplace, therefore advise your employees to ensure they have the means to get home after the party.  If you have a free bar, you may wish to limit the amount offered free.
  • If the day after the party is a work day, remind your employees that lateness to work will not be tolerated.
  • Be clear on how to deal with employees who are late or absent the next day.
  • You may wish to provide a statement to all employees in advance of the Christmas party.

If you need any HR help and support prior to or after your festive celebrations, Hill HR would be happy to help.

However, without sounding like a Christmas bah-humbug, I wish you a fun and incident-free Christmas and New Year!

#emplaw #hradvice #hrdiscipline