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‘Tis the Season to be-have Yourselves

BY Jenny Brunton
Employment Law & HR

The Christmas party is a great way for management to thank their staff for a year of hard work and motivate them going into the New Year.  However, what may seem like harmless fun can, after a few glasses of champagne, go wrong and the repercussions can go far beyond the next-day hangover. Staff should be reminded that the Christmas party is considered an extension of the workplace and any inappropriate behaviour could have serious implications.


Employers should ensure that each employee is invited to the Christmas party including those on maternity or paternity leave and those on sick leave. Employers should not insist that all staff attend the Christmas party because not all staff may celebrate Christmas and some may have other commitments outside of work. Employers should consider what alternatives are required to make their party welcoming to all, some religions and faiths do not allow the consumption of alcohol or certain foods and certain venues may be unsuitable for staff with disabilities.

Pre-party guidance and policies

It is a good idea to circulate any policies relating to employee behaviour at work/work events to all staff prior to the event. Along with this, employers should clearly lay down what is expected of employees, explain that instances of misconduct will result in disciplinary action and draw employees’ attention to any other relevant policies. The period leading up to the Christmas party is a perfect time to conduct equal opportunities training with staff.

Bullying, harassment and discrimination

Employers can be vicarious liable for the acts of their employees. Too much alcohol or high spirits can lead to lowered standards of conduct, which may result in lewd comments and unwanted behaviour. Management staff should ensure they have a firm grasp on potential disciplinary situations and act consistently when applying the relevant policies. 

Post-party absenteeism

Where employees are expected to come to work the day after the Christmas party, employers should warn staff in advance that unauthorised absence the day after the Christmas party may result in disciplinary action.

If you would like advice on any issues which arise over the festive period, or to book in your annual equal opportunities training, please get in touch with your dedicated employment solicitor here at LAW.   

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