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Work Christmas Party – Survival Guide

‘Tiz the season to be jolly fa la la la la…. we are fast approaching that festive time of year again when we all tend to over indulge a little too much (and I for one am looking forward to a bit of that).

A part of this over indulgence takes the form of the work Christmas party, whether that be a low key affair with a sit down meal or a more upbeat ‘dance a thon’!

Whilst the work Christmas party is a chance for everyone to relax a bit, have a few drinks and be rewarded for all their hard work during the year, they can sometimes be the source of inappropriate behaviour.

In the era of the #MeToo movement, the way staff behave at the work Christmas party will be even more “under the spotlight”.

What some staff do not appreciate (or get too “well oiled” to be aware of) is that, whilst the Christmas party may not take place within the walls of the office, this does not mean that they can behave as they would if they were not at work. The Christmas party is a work event and as such staff are expected to behave appropriately and in line with the normal standards expected of them whilst at work.

Before your Christmas party takes place, it is worth reminding staff of this. It is important for everyone to have fun and to enjoy themselves, that is a big part of what Christmas is about, but the fun needs to remain within acceptable boundaries.

Problems tend to occur when someone has too much to drink, which can lead them to say or do something inappropriate. This can take a variety of forms such as one employee “making a pass” (or in some cases worse) at another. If this is unwanted, it could well amount to harassment (more likely sexual harassment) and potentially be a criminal offence.

Another example could be an inappropriate Secret Santa present. There is a fine line between “banter” and being inappropriate. Buying a mug or a t-shirt containing an inappropriate reference to someone’s sex or sexuality could well amount to an act of discrimination.

Similarly, a business cannot “turn a blind eye” to events that take place at the Christmas party on the basis that “it is outside of work hours”. Employers are, generally speaking, liable for the acts of employees at work events.

It is also important to remember that employers owe a duty of care to their staff. Whilst staff are responsible for not over indulging, if someone becomes intoxicated after sampling the delights of a free bar, an employer will need to bear in mind they have a responsibility for making sure that the individual can get home safely.

Hopefully your Christmas party will be a night to remember – for the right reasons. However, if you do have any questions about harassment or discrimination at work, please contact Leanne Good on 020 7288 4785 or leannegood@boltburdon.co.uk. or contact another member of our Employment Team.

 

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