Luckily for ComplexHR, the risks are low for us…there are only the three of us (if you include Monty the office dog who, to be honest, has been known to get a little carried away on the dance floor on more than one occasion).
No-one wants to put a dampener on the Christmas spirit but, as an employer, you need to be aware of the risks involved with work Christmas parties.
Employers have a duty of care towards staff. The Equality Act 2010 makes employers liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by their employees in the course of employment unless they can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent such acts. Employers will be expected to take responsibility for what happens at a Christmas party. The term ‘in the course of employment’ is referred to in the legislation.
Can you discipline an employee for misconduct that took place after the Christmas party?
It’s usually safe to assume behaviour at a social event arranged and subsidised by a firm will be considered work-related. However, areas of uncertainty may open up where employees arrange their own celebrations or ‘move on’ from the ‘official’ Christmas party to another venue.
In Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs and other, a police officer complained of sexual harassment by work colleagues in a pub outside working hours. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that social events away from the police station involving officers from work either immediately after work, or for an organised leaving party fell within the remit of “course of employment”.
So, how do you minimize the risks?
Consider introducing a Work-Related Social Events Policy.
This may include alcohol use; not drinking and driving; not tolerating improper conduct and unacceptable behaviour; and not tolerating employees bringing the firm’s name into disrepute. Issue a statement to employees in advance of the party setting out the standards of acceptable behaviour and reminding them of your Work-Related Social Events Policy if you have one. If there are allegations of misconduct, always investigate and follow your disciplinary procedure.