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Fun and Games; The Office Christmas Party

Published 05 December 2016

By now we’re accustomed to the festive season arriving with a raft of seasonal warnings…among them is the danger posed by the office Christmas party.

It is traditionally a time for staff to let their hair down, but the booze-fuelled antics and frivolity have the potential to leave an employer having to deal with something a lot more serious than a nasty headache.

The type of festive mayhem that can occur during such an event has now been captured on the big screen with the UK release of the comedy movie Office Christmas Party (5 December).

While the Hollywood take on the seasonal office shindig may be viewed as an exaggeration of the reality, it does focus on a wild office party where things get seriously out of hand.

With staff mingling outside of their usual work environment, encouraged to have a good time and lubricated by copious amounts of booze things can – and often do – go wrong.

Although the party make take place outside the workplace there are pitfalls employers should be aware of, as they may still be liable for incidents that occur at a work-related event. (1)

Following the party it is not unusual for an employer to have to deal with a formal complaint from a member of staff. It may include allegations against a colleague of violence, harassment or bullying, which may be raised as a formal grievance and have to be dealt with accordingly. (2)

If disciplinary action is deemed necessary it is crucial to ensure any investigation is fair and reasonable and approached with an open mind with a view to look for evidence to support the allegations as well as the employee’s case. (3)

Failure to carry out a proper investigation into allegations arising from an office party has led to employers having to defend and justify their actions at an employment tribunal in a number of cases. (4)

There is a risk that you may appear to be a party-pooper but taking reasonable steps to advise employees of their responsibility, and what kind of behaviour is unacceptable, in advance of the party can be helpful.

References:

1. The Cube 123 Albion Street. Workplace Snippets | Fostering trust and faith in leadership essential for surviving a recession [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3572

2. Handling an employee’s grievance - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/handling-employee-grievance/overview

3. How to conduct a disciplinary investigation. [Internet]. Castle Associates Ltd. 2015 [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from: https://castleassociates.org.uk/?q=support-centre/employer/how-conduct-disciplinary-investigation

4. Office parties: Managing the aftermath of fights between employees - People Management Magazine Online [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jan 24]. Available from: http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2015/12/11/office-parties-managing-the-aftermath-of-fights-between-employees.aspx


 

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