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Making Sure the Christmas Party doesn't become the business's hangover

Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

Note: this article was first written by our colleagues at Solve HR, before Solve HR joined Law At Work in March 2020. We have imported this...

The festive season is upon us and, as always, it's that time of year when things start to get a little merrier for everyone, not least because of the up and coming parties, drinks receptions and dinners. However, as we embark on the most sociable time of the year, Solve have a few helpful tips to ensure that Employers don't end up with a business headache after the party. Promoting Inclusivity Christmas is all about celebrating, letting your hair down and enjoying this special time with friends, family and colleagues. However, it is important for Employers to remember that not everybody celebrates Christmas and in organising social get-togethers and Christmas parties, Employers must not discriminate against other Employees of different religions or beliefs. Likewise there may be childcare issues that prevent some Employees from attending social events therefore Employers should act sensitively and take care that Employees do not feel excluded or uncomfortable by being obliged to attend. If budget allows, perhaps celebrations can be split into a day and evening event, where Employees can choose to attend either, both or none of these events depending on their circumstances. It would also be advisable for those Employers who do throw their Employees a big festive bash to adopt a sensible approach to the party. In order to do this, ensure that there is plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks available to everyone. You may also wish to consider capping the level of free or discounted drinks. Employers have a 'duty of care' to their Employees and therefore you should also give some thought to ensuring that employees get home safely if you are aware that they are drinking. In particular, make sure that they do not drink and drive after a party. Ensuring Appropriate Conduct and Behaviour Co-worker 'punch-ups' and other threatening behaviour at office parties are the main offences committed that may require disciplinary action. Other offences relate to harassment, bullying and other types of discrimination on grounds of sex, race, sexuality, religion, disability or age. Employers are potentially vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts or comments of their Employees, even when at social events. Therefore, Employers should remind all of their Employees of the need for acceptable behaviour. However, despite best intentions, after a few sociable drinks, things can get heated and what would be seen as a flippant remark can be taken out of proportion. Should any trouble ensue it is best to act calmly, send Employees home and deal with things the following day. It might even be advisable to designate a manager who will not be drinking to deal with any unexpected displays of Christmas spirit. Setting Expectations You may also wish to forewarn Employees that disciplinary action will also be taken in the event of non-attendance at work the following day or if they attend work late or still under the influence, as a result of over indulgence. Obviously, if this is to happen, it is important to consider this approach across the board. However, be mindful of being discriminatory. There may also be genuine reasons for absence, relating to illness or disability and therefore a fair and thorough investigation will need to be undertaken prior to any disciplinary action being taken. You should use your existing policies relating to Absence and payment for absence as a point of reference, seeking advice as required. Dealing with Complaints Effectively It is essential that you ensure that you deal with all complaints received, speedily and fairly. Equally, if either yourself, or your Managers/Directors witness inappropriate behaviour or conduct you must deal with this swiftly. Any failure to act could result in claims for discrimination at an Employment Tribunal. It is also important to ensure that you adhere to fair procedures and that at the very least you follow your own internal disciplinary procedures. Failure to undertake an adequate investigatory and disciplinary process could further result in a claim for unfair dismissal. Follow your own Policy and Processes In advance of referring to them, it would be a good idea to check and update your current policies and procedures, particularly relating to Absence Management, Equal Opportunities, Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment, Drug and Alcohol misuse and Disciplinary and Grievance. For more guidance contact Solve on 0131 300 0433

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