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6 Tips to a trouble free Christmas


It pays to be aware of the potential pitfalls before the office celebrations get underway. 

As office workers across the nation gear up for the festive party season, FBC Manby Bowdler employment partner Julia Fitzsimmons has some timely advice to make sure the Christmas spirit doesn’t spiral out of control.  

“No-one wants to be a scrooge but employers and their workers need to be aware that a festive party is an extension of the workplace. That means that all the usual standards of behaviour still apply. 

“Unfortunately once you add alcohol into the mix, office politics can boil over and employees need to know that they could still face disciplinary hearings or dismissal if their behaviour falls below this standard. 

“Social events are a great way of bringing people together and rewarding the team, but employers must make it clear that any bad behaviour or misconduct will result in action.”

1. Vicarious Liability 

Physical or verbal disagreements could easily occur when the alcohol flows and there is the potential for employers to be held responsible for the behaviour of staff during a Christmas party. 

Although in a case last year a judge found that a company wasn’t liable for the injuries caused to an employee during a drinking session after a work party, he said the firm could have been responsible if it taken place during the social event. 

2. Health and Safety

If you’re putting on a Christmas party, you still have a duty of care to your staff. Any venue should be risk assessed so you don’t leave yourself open to claims.  

If you’re decorating your own work place over the festive period, make sure employees take all necessary precautions, for instance using step ladders for putting up decorations and ensuring that any decorations are safe and don’t block any fire exits. 

3. Harassment

Verbal or sexual harassment is something that may be more likely to occur at a Christmas party rather than at any other point in the year. It is a good idea to have a number of managers tasked with keeping a sober eye on things and making sure that any problems are nipped in the bud before they escalate.

Any grievances that are raised following a Christmas party or any other work-related social event must be treated no differently than at any other time. It is essential an employer deals with such complaints in a timely and sensitive manner and in line with your normal grievance procedures.

4. Discrimination  

If your Christmas party is open to partners, make sure that employees are aware that includes same sex partners and there are suitable access and facilities for disabled people.  

You should also remember that not all of employees will celebrate Christmas and care should be taken to ensure that no employees feel excluded or uncomfortable with any activities that have religious connotations.

5. Social media

The popularity of social networking such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook means that any drunken or bad behaviour by your staff might get into the public domain and result in negative publicity for your business.

Make sure staff realise that whenever they are representing your business or can be associated with it in some way, for instance by wearing an employee name badge or via information on their social media profile, then their behaviour could have an impact on the reputation of the business. 

In this day and age, it is advisable for employers to have a specific social media policy in place to protect your company against such risks and to make it clear that activity on social media, which could adversely affect the reputation of the business, may result in disciplinary action.

6. Unauthorised absence

The party could result in some sore heads the next day, so make sure that employees are aware that unauthorised absences or ‘sickies’ will be dealt with and could lead to disciplinary action.

At the same time, be mindful of your health and safety obligations, particularly where employees drive or operate machinery. Instances of employees attending work under the influence of drugs or alcohol must be treated extremely seriously so they don’t endanger the health and safety of themselves or others at work.

These tips should help you and your employees have a trouble free festive season and enjoy the holidays.

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