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The office Christmas bash and the unwanted hangover

Published 10 December 2015

It’s that time of year again when the office Christmas Party can leave employers with an unwelcome headache.

While the festive shenanigans at the work bash can be great fun, any inappropriate behaviour can have serious repercussions in the workplace.

It is important to remember that employment laws apply even when a party takes place somewhere other than in the workplace.

Away from the mundane work environment and with alcohol added to the mix it can be a recipe for trouble.

In previous years a manager’s comment led to a constructive dismissal claim after promising an employee a pay rise at the Christmas party, which did not materialise.

A female employee won a sexual harassment claim after her boss made unwelcome advances towards her at the staff festive party.

And, an employee who punched a colleague in the face as they walked home after a Christmas party was fired before losing a subsequent unfair dismissal claim.

An established and what for some can be an annoying trend of posting the most trivial of things and embarrassing photos and videos on social media can also cause tension among colleagues and potentially damage the reputation of a business.

At the risk of playing the festive party-pooper it’s probably an appropriate time to remind staff getting ready to let their hair down, wrap tinsel around their necks and dangle mistletoe above the head of some unsuspecting partygoer, of their responsibilities and the potential consequences of misbehaving.

Clear policies should already be in place and have been communicated to all staff to explain what action will be taken if a worker brings the company into disrepute due to their actions outside of the workplace, misuses social media or acts in an unacceptable or inappropriate manner.

Any complaints arising from the office Christmas party should be taken seriously and investigated without delay and in a fair and reasonable manner.

It is worth pointing out that the office party can be great fun, so enjoy, be safe… and be sensible.

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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