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Andrea O’Hare, Head of Personnel and Employment Law at Citation, explains that employees attending a work related Christmas party are doing so “in the course of their employment”, and for this reason employers were liable for their actions and welfare during the event.
“Putting aside the obvious health and safety issues, the more boisterous the party, the more likely it is that things could go wrong” she said, when asked about the responsibility of the employer. Andrea then explained that the more done to make it boisterous, the more employers would be responsible for the result.
The primary cause of any Christmas party related disturbance is always proven to be alcohol, and Citation is quick to advise bosses against a free bar. Instead, suggesting ways to channel the festive spirit without encouraging excessive drinking.
Andrea says: “Bosses should mingle and try to buy each employee a drink. Alternatively, staff could be presented with bar tickets, which can be redeemed for drinks, thus limiting the amount of alcohol that each attendee receives.
“Employers could think about designating some senior members of staff to be ‘alcohol free’, so that they can deal sensibly with any unacceptable behaviour.
“Steps should also be taken to ensure that employees get home safely. This can include arranging a coach or mini-bus, making sure that no-one will be walking home alone, or having a phone list of local taxis available.”
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remind bosses that since staff were attending a Christmas party “in the course of their employment”, employment law legislation regarding discrimination and harassment still applied.
Andrea concluded: “There is no harm in gently reminding employees that they too have responsibilities and that they are expected to comply with the company’s discrimination and harassment policies and to behave in an acceptable manner.”
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