It’s that time of year – the office Christmas
Party. A time when your staff can let their hair down and share a
few drinks (or more). The office party hangover can prove expensive
if claims arise as a result.
Fighting and sexual harassment are common complaints which
follow an office party, leaving you with a larger “hangover” than
Just this month, an account executive’s claim for sexual harassment
was upheld by the Employment Tribunal for conduct at and after the
office Christmas do last year.
The perpetrator, a director, was found to have fondled, groped and
kissed the worker and sent lurid text messages immediately following
the party. The Tribunal are still to assess damages but we expect
them to be substantial.
It matters not that the office party is held off work premises – it
will still be classed as work related. It matters not if it is an
employee who is guilty of the conduct rather than a Director – the
Employer will still be held to be accountable for the employee's
actions unless the Employer took all reasonable steps to avoid such
I don't want to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge so, rather than cancel
your office party, here are some useful tips to follow to
minimise your exposure:
- Send a memo to all attendees prior to the party encouraging
them to enjoy themselves but at the same time reminding them
that the Company rules still apply throughout the party and in
particular fighting, bullying or any form of harassment will not
- Take care if you provide a free bar - inevitably this leads
to unwanted behaviour and Tribunals have held that Employer's
must take some responsibility for what occurs as a result. Make
sure there is access to plenty of water and food.
- Make sure any "entertainment" at the office party is
carefully selected and does not infringe discrimination rules.
If you engage a comedian seek assurances that the content will
not be distasteful.
- Watch out for workers who may have been drinking but still
intend to drive home. If possible try to make some travel
- Think carefully about the timing of the party. If some
Employees are expected to turn into work the following day
remind them that being under the influence, especially in a
safety critical job, will not be tolerated and disciplinary
action maybe taken. Also remind them of the risks of driving
into work the morning after.
On that happy and festive note - have a wonderful Christmas!
Copyright 2006 - 2010 Taylors Solicitors