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The Christmas Party

14 December 2017 | Cecily Donoghue

What impact does your Christmas party have on your workforce?

Is it a fun and festive event to enjoy with colleagues, or an event resulting in legendary tales of drunken debauchery? Cecily Donoghue, employment solicitor at Gregg Latchams, considers the key issues below.

Do you need a Social Events Policy? – If employees are unclear about the standards of behaviour at these events, then consider whether to have a policy on work related social events to ensure there is no ambiguity of the standards expected.

Disciplinary sanctions – Ensure that staff are aware of the disciplinary sanctions which could result from breaches of the standards of conduct.

Misconduct – Make it clear that any issues relating to excessive alcohol consumption, fighting, the use of illegal drugs and inappropriate language will not be tolerated. If any issues arise, make sure these are dealt with quickly on their return to work.

Harassment – Don’t forget that employers can be held vicariously liable for discriminatory acts by their employees. The law doesn’t just cover sexual harassment as unlawful conduct can be on any of the prohibited grounds. Remind employees and ensure that they, and any plus ones that may also be attending, are aware of that harassment will not be tolerated.

Entertainment – Third parties may also be a source of offensive behaviour. Liability can also include an employer’s failure to prevent harassment by a third party. Ensure that any third parties attending the event are aware that the business is committed to equal opportunities to ensure that your employees are not subjected to unacceptable behaviour by third parties.

Religious beliefs – Be mindful of staff’s religious beliefs. For example, choose the day of the week carefully as having the event on a Friday night may exclude Jewish employees, offer non-alcoholic drinks and provide a range of foods to cater for those who may be vegetarian or unable to eat pork or beef. It’s a good idea to ask about any special dietary requirements in advance so that these can be accommodated and menus are helpful now diverse.

Travel – consider how your staff will get home after a party. Issue advice about not drinking and driving and encourage staff to plan ahead. Consider hiring transport or providing telephone numbers for taxi firms.

After the event – warn staff beforehand that unauthorised absence the day after the event may be treated as a disciplinary issue. Staff are more likely to phone in sick but remember that evidence that they are not genuinely sick is required before an employer can take any action which alleges that they have been dishonest.

Grievances – if a grievance is received following a party then this must not be treated any differently than if it had been submitted at any other time during the year. Follow your policy in full and deal with them promptly and sensitively.

We hope that everyone enjoys and takes part in your party without issue. If you’d like to discuss any of the points in further detail, or are dealing with an incident which has taken place, please don’t hesitate to contact either Nick Jones or Cecily Donoghue in our Employment Team

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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