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‘Twas the Night Before the Christmas Party - preventing problems

28 November 2016

‘Twas the Night Before the Christmas Party and all through the place,
Employees were plotting the next night’s disgrace.
The management should warn ‘employees beware’,
Or come Monday morning,
The job might not be there…

Preventing problems

Many employers plan Christmas parties for their staff to thank and reward them for their hard work throughout the year. Whilst this is an opportunity for people to relax and let their hair down, it is important to remember that you can be liable for their conduct at the Christmas party. It is therefore good practice to remind them that the Christmas party is a work event and they must behave appropriately. In addition, we suggest you refer employees to your internal policies covering behaviour such as your ‘dignity at work’ or ‘anti-bullying and harassment’ policies, and, just as importantly, your ‘social media’ policy.

Whilst these measures may seem a little Scrooge-like, they should help discourage any inappropriate behaviour. If they don’t, then you will be justified in taking disciplinary action.

Post party problems: hangovers

It is a truth universally acknowledged that employees who consume too much alcohol at the Christmas party will have a hangover the following day. Whilst for many, two paracetamol, a pint of water and a black coffee will usually alleviate the hangover demons, this is not always the case, which could lead to problems.

Employers are obliged to provide a safe place of work for their employees. If staff have to operate machinery, drive vehicles or undertake any other ‘dangerous’ activities the morning after the Christmas party, the health and safety of that employee, their colleagues and third parties could be endangered. It is important that you are aware of this risk if employees have to work the following morning. As a preventative measure you should remind staff that they should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work. If you suspect they are, you should:

  • prevent the employee from carrying out any activity
  • ask that employee to take an alcohol/drugs test in accordance with company policy
  • consider instigating disciplinary procedure.

Post party problems: inappropriate conduct

If, despite your best efforts, you learn that there was some inappropriate behaviour, it is important to take swift action.

Employers can be liable for the conduct of their employees at the Christmas party, so it is essential you investigate any reports of inappropriate conduct thoroughly and as soon as possible.

If an employee raises a grievance about a colleague’s bad behaviour, ensure that you follow your grievance procedure carefully and, if appropriate, take disciplinary action.

If someone outside of the organisation raises a complaint against one of your employees, you should still consider instigating a disciplinary investigation.

Be sure to follow your disciplinary procedure fully. In cases of serious allegations such as sexual harassment or violence, you should consider suspending the employee in question, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Now we’ve given these tips please continue with ease,
To throw a great party for your employees.
And with this we say,
As we don’t wish to fright,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a good night! 

Jenny works in our employment law team. She helps clients with the full range of employment related matters including TUPE, defending tribunal proceedings, contractual matters and general employee relations and HR work. She has wide experience working for SMEs, owner-managed businesses and organisations employing in excess of 1,500 staff across the UK. 

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Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
Senior associate, solicitor
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Jenny Hawrot
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