EMPLOYERS YOUR PRESENT FOR CHRISTMAS COULD BE A CLAIM FOR HARRASSENT - SO BE AWARE
Its Christmas and the office party is looming. Its a time when everyone should be having a good time while the boss says thank you for your year's hard work by arranging the party. However unfortunately it also a time when employees over indulge with the alcohol and this can result in office punch ups, threatening behaviour, inappropriate comment, incidents of harrassment and bullying and discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, sexuality, religion, disability or age.
Well you might be surprised to find out that you as an employer are responsible for your employees acts if they are carried in the course of their employment, and attending the Christmas Party is in the course of their employment
Employers you need to think about what you can do to minimise risks of your employers acting inappropriately at the Christmas Party
You need to be aware that when arranging a party you may have employees who are of different religions and cultures. As Christmas is Christian celebration, not everyone may want to attend a Christmas party but you need to make sure that you invite everyone even people who are off work due to holidays or maternity/paternity leave. Don't push people to attend the party and do remember that you may need to request vegetarian or halal food etc and not everyone drinks alcohol, so make sure that there are alternative beverages.
Try to make sure that you avoid clashes with other religious dates, such as Jewish Hanukkah or the Islamic New Year, which tend to fall around the same time as Christmas
If you have employees who are disabled make sure that the venue has appropriate facilities and if partners are invited that invitation should include same sex partners,
Employers owe employees a ‘duty of care' and therefore you should also give some thought to ensuring that employees get home safely. If you are aware employees are drinking don't allow them to drive home after the party.
Remind employees that inappropriate behaviour at the party and non attendance at work the following day may result in their being disciplined in accordance with the companies Code of Conduct Policy.
Make sure you have clear and unambiguous policies in place, this will assist in defending any possible claims that you may receive. Make sure that if there are any complaints after the Christmas party that you investigate them fully and adhere to fair procedures . Follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures or your own internal disciplinary procedures. Any failure to act promptly could result in claims for discrimination at an Employment Tribunal.
Remember that as an employer you are liable for the actions and conduct of employees but also for third parties, i.e. entertainers or after dinner speakers!
One final thing employers owe employees a ‘duty of care' and therefore you should also give some thought to ensuring that employees get home safely if you are aware that they are drinking. In particular, make sure that they do not drink and drive after a party.
Why not provide contact numbers of local taxis and encourage staff to use them.
The information herewith gives general guidance. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law or treated as a substitute for specific legal advice concerning individual situations