‘Tis the season

With the Christmas party season in full swing, Sarah Furness, partner in the employment law team at Hay & Kilner, has issued a checklist to help employers prepare properly for staying on the right side of the law in case any staff celebrations get out of hand. 

Any such social events, whether taking place in or outside of working hours and on or off site, can be seen as an extension of the workplace, and as such, any in appropriate behaviour can have significant legal, financial and reputational implications for any business. 

Sarah advises: “No-one wants to play Scrooge at Christmas, and most end of year celebrations usually go off without any major incidents – but that said, staff need to know the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour if employers are to safeguard against having more than just a headache the morning after. Every year, we see significant cases reaching the courts arising from incidents at work parties where things have got out of hand, and no employer wants to be the next one to be added to the list. Aggression and sexual harassment are the most common forms of misconduct at such events, something no organisation wants to see happening at what is supposed to be a festive celebration, and either issue can lead to substantial claims for compensation, with the associated damage to an employer’s reputation.” 

Sarah’s Christmas party checklist recommends that employers: 

  • Manage overall alcohol consumption so employees don’t lose their usual workplace inhibitions and that senior individuals from the employer are available to intervene if needed. 
  • Ensure non-alcoholic drinks are available and remind everyone that actions or comments that would be unacceptable behaviour in the workplace would still be unacceptable in the relaxed atmosphere of the party. Equality & Diversity training should cover this (amongst many other things!) and the team at Hay & Kilner can support with such training. 
  • Are alert for health and safety risks the morning after if it’s a working day, particularly where machinery or driving is involved, in case anyone is still under the influence of alcohol. 
  • Act promptly to investigate anything that may have happened and make sure grievance or disciplinary policies are followed. 

 The employment law team at Hay & Kilner are on hand to provide support to AIM members by offering a free 30-minute consultation. Click here to find out more>>