Can you dismiss someone for their behaviour at a Christmas party?

07 November 2017

More often than not, Christmas parties take place outside of the workplace and normal work hours. However, they are still work events, which means employees are by no means exempt from disciplinary action.

To avoid any incidents in the first place, ahead of the event, we’d recommend you set your stance by reminding employees of what’s expected of them, and what type of behaviour simply will not be tolerated.

If you’re unfortunate enough to face a Christmas bust-up, here are a few tips to help you handle the aftermath.

Gathering evidence

It’s crucial to gather sufficient evidence before considering disciplinary action. As well as talking to the employee(s) directly involved with the incident, you should collect written statements from employees who witnessed what happened.

In addition to this, if the incident occurred in an off-site hotel, restaurant or bar, for example, you should approach the venue to see if a) any of their staff witnessed the offending event, and b) if they logged an incident report.

Suspension

During the investigation stage, you’ll need consider whether or not suspending the employee(s) is appropriate while you come to a conclusion.

An example of when suspension might be appropriate could be if two employees who work on the same team have a physical fight.

Assuming that you don’t have evidence in the early stages to suggest one of the employees was wholly responsible for the altercation, suspending both employees may be a suitable course of action. This is to ensure such behaviour doesn’t occur again in the workplace, and to make sure the tension isn’t brought into the workplace to impede productivity.

Taking action

If you do take disciplinary action on an incident that’s taken place at a Christmas party, make sure you deal with the issue promptly, and follow a fair and consistent procedure throughout.

You should also consider the consistency of previous sanctions.

For example, if you dismiss an employee without notice for a first offence on the grounds of gross misconduct for fighting with a colleague one year, and the previous year an employee was just given a verbal warning, you could open yourself up to unfair dismissal and/or discrimination claims.

What constitutes gross misconduct?

This will vary from business to business, and should be set out in your employee handbook. Some examples of what might constitute gross misconduct at a work Christmas party include:

  • Physical violence
  • Bullying
  • Obscene behaviour
  • Theft.

We’ve got you covered

Although we hope you don’t, if you find yourself facing a tricky situation at your Christmas party and need help handling it, get in touch with our Employment Law experts on 0345 844 1111 or hello@citation.co.uk.

 

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