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It is that time of year again, when employers in the UK offer staff a Christmas party. Unfortunately some managers are faced, the day after the Christmas party, with a range of grievances and disciplinary problems which can ultimately result in legal liability for their employer.
But it was outside of work: Not my problem?
Although Christmas parties are often off site, in a bar or restaurant, UK case law has established that there is usually sufficient connection between the Christmas party and the workplace to mean that misbehaviour at the Christmas party can land the employer with a Tribunal or court claim. Employers are held to be “vicariously liable” for the acts of their employees. This means that, even if the employers are unaware or would certainly not condone the bad behaviour, they could still be sued.
Common problems arising from the Christmas Party
The following are frequently reported to the RMIF legal advice line:-
Tips for Employers
It is up to employers to set the rules. Clear communication in advance regarding what is and what is not expected is the most useful advice that can be given. Employers could, for example, set out in a memo or email, expected levels of behaviour and potential sanctions for non-compliance; not that this has to be done in a particularly miserly way! A gentle reminder included in details about the party will often suffice. Employees could also be reminded to re-read the sections of the handbook regarding equal opportunities and/or anti-harassment policies.
To end on a positive note, remember that the Christmas party can be a morale boosting social event which many employees look forward to. Just remember to avoid the sprouts and Bob from accounts, when he appears with the mistletoe.
If you find yourself with a legal hangover, please do not hesitate to contact the RMI legal advice line on 0845 305 4230.
Solicitor, Motor Industry Legal Services