Look out – it’s party time!

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By Richard Gvero, Joint Senior Partner, Head of Commercial and Head of Employment

The festive season is fast approaching and many businesses will be arranging Christmas parties for staff. These events are great for building morale and celebrating the year’s successes, but ….

“What happens at the Christmas party will not necessarily stay at the Christmas party – sometimes with disastrous consequences!”

Socialising at these events, often with the provision of unlimited alcohol, can lead staff to behave in ways that they would ordinarily regret and as the event is likely to be regarded as an extension of the workplace disciplinary action can result.

This can come as shock to those employees who are likely to view such partiesas purely social. If the misconduct is serious e.g. violence or abusive behaviour, dismissal can result.

Employers also need to be careful; they may be liable for employee misdeeds because they are in a work setting, albeit a sociable one. Employers should also avoid discrimination or harassment traps such as insisting on attendance at Christmas parties (forgetting that Christmas is a Christian celebration) or not bearing in mind dietary requirements of religious groups.

I know it’s “Bah humbug” but increasingly Christmas party policies are put in place setting out the parameters of acceptable behaviour, including what can and cannot be communicated on social media; these policies should be taken seriously.

In short, we mustn’t forget that our obligations as employers and employees are not confined to the walls of the office and are certainly not suspended when we are in party mode.

So whilst it is indeed the season to be jolly, don’t ignore the hazards!

Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.