Avoid Christmas parties’ legal minefield
Any bad behaviour at an office Christmas party could lead to complaints and even legal action
Managers should take care on the law and Christmas parties
Employers need to ensure that they stick to their legal obligations even during the office Christmas party.
The government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and lawyers are among those who warn employers that incidents at work-related social events could lead to legal action.
Lawyers can argue that an office party falls within work time and so employment law applies.
Managers are legally liable if an employee lodges harassment, discrimination or other complaints against a colleague or supervisor.
Parties can become a legal minefield because normal constraints on behavior are reduced at a time when alcohol is consumed.
But managers can take action to reduce the risk of falling foul of employment law due to sloppy behavior.
Employers should have an anti-harassment policy that they should remind staff of before their Christmas party to avoid pitfalls.
An anti-harassment policy should point out unacceptable behavior such as taking drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, fighting, inappropriate language and physical contact.
Managers should also ensure that any speakers or entertainers should avoid offensive or discriminatory behavior.
To ensure the party is managed properly, employers should consider:
- inviting all employees even those on maternity leave,
- offering soft drinks, vegetarian and other food to cater for everyone,
- venues with disabled access,
- assisting staff who have consumed alcohol to get home, and
- advising staff of the consequences of not attending work the next day.