Legal issues of office Christmas parties all wrapped up
Written by Geoff Newman on 05/12/2013
The office Christmas party. A time for festivities, fun and memorable moments… sometimes for all the wrong reasons.
Notorious for excessive alcohol, inappropriate behaviour and embarrassment. Here’s our advice on avoiding the legal hangover this Christmas.
Make love not war
Excessive levels of alcohol are probably the number one cause of ‘incidents’ at a Christmas party. Avoid brawls and inappropriate behaviour by limiting alcohol consumption. Take the time to remind employees at the start of the night that the party is an extension of their workday, and although everyone’s there to have fun, their behaviour needs to be respectful and controlled.
Under the mistletoe
That mistletoe you’ve been thinking of putting up… don’t. It may seem like a good idea at the time but it increases the risk of sexual harassment claims. You are responsible for protecting your employees and liable for their actions, whether or not you are offsite or outside working hours.
Feast for fun
Remember to take different values and beliefs into account when planning your Christmas party. Ensure there is plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks available, and make sure your catering satisfies everyone, such as vegans and vegetarians. Furthermore ensure your chosen venue is easily accessible for the disabled.
Cracking a joke
We all like a joke in the office, but before you know it the banters got out of control and suddenly employees are telling co-workers what they really think of each other, or worse their boss! Whilst this provides great gossip for the next day, it risks leaving your staff demotivated and upset so be vigilant.
Consider how your employees are going to get home. Think about providing transport or provide numbers for local taxi firms. For employees who will be travelling home by public transport suggest they check the time of the last train or bus.
Morning after the night before
If your party’s on a school night, make your expectations over absences the following day clear. Let them know that over indulgence is not a valid excuse. And warn employees that any unauthorised absences will result in disciplinary action.
All wrapped up
Christmas party’s generally have a very positive impact on your team and is a great way to thank employees for all their hard work over the year. Whilst no one wants to be Scrooge this Christmas, it is important to set the boundaries of how employees are expected to behave to avoid any future problems.
Above all, have fun and Merry Christmas!