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This year, MPs will be allowed to expense their spending on food, décor, and non-alcoholic drinks for a festive celebration, The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority recently announced. Whilst the question of whether a cocoa in a constituency office should be expensed isn’t necessarily a question for employers to fret over, the annual work ‘Christmas Do’ can sometimes prove to be a bit of a HR headache.
Are you responsible for your employee's behaviour at the work Christmas party?
Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their staff during the celebrations. The case of Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs and others makes it clear that an organised work event will fall within the definition of the ‘course of employment’.
Employers would therefore be well minded to consider the work Christmas party as an extension of the workplace, and should be aware of the potential for them to be responsible for any discrimination or sexual harassment committed by an employee.
Reduce your risk over the Christmas period
Legal liability is certainly not a merry thought, so we’ve come up with some handy tips and tricks to help stay jolly, and make sure that employers can reduce their risk over the festive period.
- Remind employees of their behavioural obligations. An email round to attendees stating that the company harassment and disciplinary policies remain in force during the event will help everyone understand what is and isn’t acceptable;
- Remember that not everybody celebrates Christmas. All employees’ religious festivals and holidays should be accommodated, and people shouldn’t feel excluded due to their beliefs;
- If the party is held the night before a working day, make sure that employees are aware of what is expected of them in regards to absence following the event. All managers should be on the same page;
- Avoid an open bar! Too much free-flowing alcohol is bound to cause issues;
- Try and make sure that the festivities are inclusive when it comes to employees who don’t drink alcohol or eat certain foods – catering for everyone will ensure nobody feels excluded;
- Avoid topics of promotion and remuneration whilst the drinks are flowing. Comments made by employers at social events on these topics have been held to be binding; and
- Consider ordering taxis for staff following the event to ensure that they get home safely.
We hope these tips help and wish you a Merry Christmas!