What are your responsibilities as an employer?
Despite an employer’s best endeavours, office Christmas parties do get out of control. Over time, there have been countless examples of employees getting into trouble: there was the
– employee who, when chasing a secretary after drinking too much alcohol, fell over and broke his leg resulting in him being off work for a long time;
– employee who got drunk within an hour of the office party starting then swung a punch at her employer’s wife;
– employee who threw a bottle through the air and hit his boss on the head, resulting in him requiring hospital treatment
– employee who got drunk and spent his time at the party harassing and threatening other members of staff.
Just because the above events took place at an office party did not mean that the employer was “off the hook” in terms of responsibility and liability towards its employees. An employer will potentially remain liable for an employee’s misdeeds of harassment, discriminatory or a criminal nature because the office party is just an extension of the work environment. When holding a Christmas party therefore, an employer should consider whether, to minimise the risk of trouble, it should take place at a lunchtime or whether it should be held at a venue where alcohol intake can be monitored more closely or whether the availability of alcohol at the event should be limited.
If an incident does crop up either during or after an office party, a proper process must be followed – the incident must be investigated thoroughly first (when all concerned are sober) to decide whether disciplinary action should be taken. It is an absolute “no no” for any process to be commenced against an employee at the party itself whatever they may or may not have done.
If you require any employment advice or representation, whether you are an employer or employee, feel free to contact Alan Davidson for a consultation: 01756 692 869.