With the festive season upon us, many of us will be getting ready to attend the annual work Christmas party. However, it is important to remember that both employers and employees still need to act professionally during these festivities and other functions held, or else multiple workplace conflicts may arise.
Employers should be alert to employment law issues, as they will potentially be liable for anything an employee does at the Christmas party that may be discriminatory against another employee.
With drinks flowing and spirits high, employees can often forget the basics of office conduct, resulting in situations that are a breach of employment law contracts. Some risks arising from the Christmas party may include drunkenness, offensive remarks, fighting, unfilled promises and unwanted attention. The usual work policies and procedures, including those to do with gross misconduct, will still apply at any work organised Christmas party, and this should be made known across the workforce to reduce the chances of any mishaps.
What can employers do to keep things professional whilst still allowing employees to have fun?
There are various measures employers can put into place ahead of the Christmas party to keep things professional, whilst still ensuring employees have a good time.
Employers should comply with the obligations under the Equality Act 2020, have a well drafted policy in place regarding the festive period, or resend out policies already in place ahead of any party taking place. Further to this, Employers should remind their staff of what acceptable behaviour is and what is not, reinforcing the consequences of unacceptable behaviour. Policies which specify this will help distance employers from any inappropriate behaviour, potentially escaping any potential liability for the actions that took place.
As well as ensuring employees behave correctly, employers should make sure they’re taking the necessary steps to ensure the party goes smoothly.
Some things employers should try to avoid are:
- Having a free bar for the whole night - this will encourage staff to drink more than they may usually would. It may also be best to limit any alcohol available at the party.
- After parties related to work - this is where most issues will arise as it gets later, therefore, employers are advised to avoid this.
- Discussions around performance and salary – managers are advised to avoid having any of these conversations with their employees whilst at the party, as it may lead to unfilled promises or difficult conversations.
It is important that employers follow company procedures when dealing with any issues that may arise, and ensure any disciplinaries or dismissals are made fairly and with just reason, as well as protecting other employees of the business from any behaviour of other employees.
After having a couple of drinks, conversations may start to stray, so it is best to keep things light-hearted and to avoid any awkward conversation in the new year.
Can we help further?
If your office has a Christmas party planned, and you’re unsure of your rights as an employer, or if you have any other HR/employment law related matter, please contact James Johnson or Alexandra Bullmore in the employment team.