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Christmas is almost here and that means the annual Christmas party. The staff party is an opportunity for employers to reward employees and to celebrate the year.

It should always be good fun BUT sometimes things can get out of hand and then it all turns sour.

With the wine flowing and a relaxed atmosphere, people can lose sight of the rules that normally apply to work situations. In the worst scenario this can lead to sexual harassment or personal injury claims.

Even if the employer does not actually organise the party, and it is off the works premises, it is still considered to be a work function and the employer still has a duty of care towards their employees.

Can an employer protect themselves?

Taking certain basic steps can protect employers from claims by disgruntled employees:-.

  • Ensure all employees are familiar with the staff policies such as anti-harassment, dignity at work and disciplinary procedures.
  • Remind employees that the during any function they are still acting as employees, and any breach of the company procedures may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
  • In the event that an employer receives a complaint, it is imperative that the complaint is properly investigated in accordance with the procedures and is not simply dismissed. The fact that a complaint may be made by a junior employee against a senior employee who may have been in the company for many years is not a good reason to treat the complaint as seriously as any other.
  • If there is a formal complaint of inappropriate behaviour, an appropriate disciplinary procedure must be put in place and appropriate sanctions must be applied.
  • In relation alcohol being taken, remind employees that this will not be an excuse for causing offence to colleagues.

It is important that employees understand that this is a work function and that acceptable norms for interaction between colleagues apply.

If you need any employment advice please contact our employment team or Julie directly at Julie.leonard@edwardsandcompany.co.uk