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How To Make Sure The Christmas Party Doesn’t Land You In A Tribunal!

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How To Make Sure The Christmas Party Doesn’t Land You In A Tribunal!

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The invite

Do not insist that all staff attend the Christmas party. Christmas is a Christian holiday – so do not pressure someone to attend if they don’t want to on the grounds of religion. If the event is out of hours, also remember that some people have family responsibilities that may prevent attendance.

Secret Santa
If telling people to bring a Secret Santa gift, ask that all gifts are inoffensive. Some gifts – notably underwear and sex toys – have sparked complaints in the past. This could be seen as harassment.

Husbands, wives… and life-partners
If inviting employees’ partners to the event, employers need to tread carefully. This should not be restricted to husbands and wives but also extended to partners of the opposite and same sex, to avoid potential sexual orientation discrimination claims. The Civil Partnerships Act gives same-sex couples the right to enter into an equivalent of marriage; employers should make extra sure that, if inviting partners, same-sex partners are not excluded from festivities.

Avoid ‘tipple tattle’
Boozing bosses should avoid discussing promotion, career prospects or salary with employees who may use the convivial situation to discuss matters that are more suited to a formal appraisal or private meeting. The employee is likely to expect any career promises to be kept – even if the employer can’t remember the conversation!

Curb drink driving
Employers are responsible for employees’ actions after consuming alcohol they have provided. It is advisable to hire a minibus for the end of the night, or provide the numbers of local taxi firms to demonstrate that reasonable steps have been taken to minimise this risk.

Don’t expect miracles the morning after
A contract exists between the employee and employer that they will be in a fit state to carry out the work they are being paid to do. Bosses should decide to what extent they will be lenient to staff coming to work with a hangover, arriving late, or even not at all, and inform employees. More important is the safety of employees, who may not be fully sober the next day, especially if they need to drive or operate machinery. Employers should either advise employees beforehand not to drink too much alcohol, or remove the risk to safety by giving them alternative work until they are fit to resume their normal tasks.

Age limits
Keep an eye out for the office junior. Bosses cannot allow under-18s to drink. In an extreme example, an employer was found responsible for the death of a girl at the office party due to alcohol poisoning.

Misguided by mistletoe
Your staff policies on bullying and harassment and discrimination still apply at the office party. Just make sure everyone knows this and knows what they are. Employers can find that they end up paying for unwanted advances between co-workers if tribunals characterise the behaviour as evidence of a culture of victimisation or harassment.

Free booze
Employers providing free drink or putting a credit card behind a bar should be careful. In one case, three employees of the Whitbread Beer Company got drunk and had a fight after a seminar on improving behavioral skills. They successfully argued that their resulting dismissals were unfair. A relevant factor was that the employer had provided a free bar – and thus condoned their behavior.

Don’t ignore drugs in the loos
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, it is an offence for an employer to knowingly permit or even to ignore the use, production or supply of any controlled drugs, from cannabis to cocaine, taking place on their premises. There may also be a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Keep these things in mind when you are celebrating your Christmas party, but don’t let them spoil the occasion. Make sure you all enjoy the celebrations!

Don’t forget when you need help with staff, when it’s all gone wrong or its get too much then we can help you. Call us on 01980 622167 or email jacqui@jmassociates.org

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