The office Christmas party

Q: I have a large team that we’re taking out for Christmas celebrations later this month. How do I make sure everyone behaves themselves?

A: Firstly, you need to take responsibility for arranging the location, time, and nature of the Christmas celebration.

Ensure that those staff under the legal drinking age of 18 refrain from drinking alcohol.

Think twice before supplying free alcohol to other employees. Many incidents at Christmas parties including inappropriate conduct such as violence result from excessive drinking.

These can lead to grievances being made against colleagues and the company, and the company needing to take disciplinary action against staff.

The law can see the Christmas party as ‘work time’ and therefore hold the company (employer) responsible for the drinking practices and behaviour of staff.

Secondly, there is a risk that staff may start to cross the relationship boundaries with colleagues, with behaviour that is drink fuelled and unwelcome.

Prior to the celebrations, ensure therefore that you have laid down clear rules to staff as to what constitutes inappropriate conduct and warn everyone to be on their ‘best behaviour’.

If anyone makes a complaint about harassment, it must be dealt with seriously and efficiently (remembering again, the company is vicariously liable for the conduct of its employees in the course of employment.)

Thirdly, brief your management to remain in control of their senses when conversing with staff members. Promises of pay rises, bonuses and promotions could be contractually binding if there is certainty to the commitment entered into!

Top Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls
• Ensure the Company has in place an Equal Opportunities and Anti-Harassment Policy (clearly stating what conduct amounts to harassment) and that it is enforced.
• Provide training and support to managers on equal opportunities and anti-harassment.
• Ensure the Company’s Disciplinary Policy clearly states examples of what amounts to misconduct and gross misconduct.
• Consider whether it is possible to hold the Christmas party at a venue other than the place of work and find a way to diplomatically warn employees to be on their ‘best behaviour’.
• Ensure any grievances are dealt with seriously and consistently and in accordance with procedure.
• Be very careful if providing alcohol to staff!
• Ensure that any celebration does not offend employees’ religions.
• Ensure health and safety requirements are satisfied.
• Consider how employees will travel home after the party.

Answer by Marsden Rawsthorn employment team