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It's the time of the season. Yes, not just for Christmas trees in the office and ugly sweaters: the office party is also around the corner.

I’m sure that like me you have witnessed your share of unusual behaviours at one of these events, and as an employer, you may have had some seasonal dramas. We have previously posted about how you, as a business, should go about throwing a good Xmas Bash but it should be borne in mind that steps should be taken to mitigate against potential employee related problems too. Many may wish, with hindsight, that they had in place clear, unambiguous documents to spell out what is expected of employees. We have a number of employment template documents which you may come to be grateful for, not just over the holiday season but all year round. If you would like expert business legal advice on your existing employment contracts, please do make use of our Business Contract Review Services.
Christmas and New Year Parties, dinners, balls, night-out, whatever form they might take…

We are talking about the source of the January grievance build up. From the ‘just talking way too much’ on one end of the spectrum to the ‘throwing-up collapsing and curled up in a crumpled heap’ in the lobby of the not -so -cheap venue, which you booked after months of planning. This in full view of your VIP guests, your suppliers, valued clients, people from head office, directors, majority shareholders…

Basically, everyone you wouldn’t want going away and thinking of you, and more importantly your business as the ‘crumpled heap’ scene.

These things (and worse) do happen though, year after year. It may lead, in some instances, to thirty-second entertainment value, but the potential impact on your reputation could be devastating.

In a nutshell, employers need to let their employees know that they need to be in control of their senses, even (or especially) at work social functions. There have to be boundaries, which need to be adhered to and you as an employer cannot tolerate any out-of-control behaviour – there will be consequences in the form of a disciplinary.

After all, a work party is deemed an extension of the workplace when organised through employment and with work colleagues attending. The last thing you need is wasted management time, money and resources in dealing with grievances. This could be anything from unwanted sexual advances at work, harassment of another work colleague or alcohol-fuelled violence.

You want everyone to have a good time and a successful event. It is a great opportunity to reward your staff and create some positive spirit within your company. Here are some important things to keep in mind: 

  • Christmas functions and work-related parties, where even a small number of work employees are attending, could be regarded as an extension of the workplace
  • Have you got appropriate guidelines and policies in place for staff? Are they up to date, do they address all possible issues and are employees aware of their existence?
  • Is your staff handbook up to date?
  • Be sensitive and aware of your obligations in relation to getting staff safely home, especially those that may be vulnerable
  • Remember to cater for all needs e.g. vegetarian diets or food allergies and make arrangements for disabled employees
  • You can’t oblige employees to attend; not everyone may be inclined or able to.
  • Do however ensure you invite all employees, including those that may have been away or on leave, part-time and casual employees
 Once you consider your risks fully, you will be in a position to relax and look forward to a SUCCESSFUL, ENJOYABLE function! – Share this using #LawBite 

Journey further The key to a healthy working environment Managing employee misconduct LawBite Marketing Team * This blog post has been updated on 25 November 2019

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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