With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts turn naturally to social events. It's the time of year when most employees feel they can look forward to a slowing pace of work and the office Christmas party. Most workplaces will have a function of some sort to celebrate the festive season, whether it's a lunch or dinner at an external venue, or something in the business premises themselves. It is often seen as a good way to boost staff morale and make employees feel appreciated. However what can employers do to avoid post Christmas party complaints.
- Should remember the laws on discrimination apply at the office party, regardless of location. For example, employers can be liable for inappropriate comments, unwelcome behaviour or unwanted advances of staff at an event that takes place in the local pub. This may also cover situations after staff leave the event to go home, e.g. colleagues share a taxi.
- Shouldn't insist that staff attend the Christmas party - it's a Christian holiday, so employees who hold different religious views, shouldn't be pressured to attend. It's also worth remembering that some people will have family commitments which may prevent them from attending.
A party wouldn't be a party without the presence of alcohol. Employers offering a free bar should be wary of behaviour getting out of hand, if necessary send employees home in a taxi if conduct becomes unruly.
Aggressive and threatening behaviour following a staff party are the main reasons for employers disciplining staff. If behaviour is tantamount to gross misconduct, it may justify dismissal. However, employers should consider that providing a free bar without limiting the number of free drinks could be seen as condoning bad behaviour.
Employers may wish to consider implementing a Conduct Policy covering company events, or sending out a statement outlining what standards of behaviour are expected, and the potential consequences of behaviour that falls short of the required standard. In most cases this will be disciplinary action up to and including summary dismissal where behaviour amounts to gross misconduct. The statement should also mention that alcohol should be consumed in moderation and employee should not drink and drive.
It?s also worth considering whether appointing monitors for the evening would be helpful, helping to ensure circumstances do not get out of hand.
If you experience any problems post-party and would like to speak to a member of our employment team, please contact us.