The Works Christmas Party

How does the annual works Christmas party impact on the employer and employees?

Welcome to Westcountry HR’s November blog…..  Firstly, forgive us for mentioning the word ‘Christmas’ so early in November.

But our first word of advice is to prepare yourselves for the season’s festivities.  Usually everyone has a great time, there are no incidents and there a just a few sore heads the next day. 

But it’s when there is no preparation that things can get out of hand. We should also remind ourselves that as employers we have a general duty under s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees is a statutory duty.  Employers may also be held liable under common law based on negligence. This could be direct or indirect negligence.

So, its advisable to lay your ground rules out and communicate them well in advance of the event, beyond all the basics such as letting employees know:

The venue, timings, dress code, don’t drink and drive, if its work day follow the party/gathering then informing that they are expected to attend work and if partners are welcome etc.

 It’s also advisable to give some guidance as to what and what isn’t acceptable behaviour.

This can be done via a simple, non-formal email to all your employees.  Or you could cover yourself with a formal notice/policy of expectations and what is not acceptable. 

Example paragraph or what could be included in an informal or formal communication

Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. (if providing, then add. The provision of free alcoholic drinks by the organisation is not an excuse to drink excessively).  You should not drink and drive. If you will not be driving, please make arrangements in advance to get home, for example by public transport or taxi (or by reserving a place on the provided coach). Never use unlicensed minicabs. Use local taxi firms close to the venue if necessary. The organisation (will/will not) pay for the cost of taxis home (on production of an appropriate receipt).

Example of case law

Chief Constable of the Lincolnshire Police v Stubbs and others [1999] IRLR 81 EAT. The EAT held that the employer was liable for the sexual harassment of a police officer that took place during social gatherings of colleagues in a pub. The occasions on which the harassment occurred were described by the EAT as “social gatherings involving officers from work either immediately after work or for an organised leaving party”. This meant that they could be described as an “extension of employment”. The police force as the “employer” was therefore liable for the sexual harassment.

Its also advisable to cover off training events and away days in your formal communication.

If you require any further advice or assistance ………………………..

Tel: 01626 367595