As Christmas approaches, Caunters consultant solicitor, Simon Outten, has some dos and don’ts to consider for the office Christmas party season.
For many of us the biggest worry about the works Christmas party is whether we can still fit into those party clothes or having to spend time with the boss or the boss’ wife!
But the greatest problems usually arise from the liberating effects of the many spritzers or pints that get consumed before, during and after the do. All a heady mix for creating embarrassment and disciplinary issues!
The dos and the don’ts
Do you for example know that the Christmas party venue is simply an extension of the work place? Actions taken and things said between bosses and workers can all have the same legal consequences as being at work. So when you make a beer filled promise of promotion, or you really let the boss know what you think of him, expect to be held to account!
And the fun does not end there…
…if you try and insist that all staff should attend the party, be aware of complaints of lack of respect. A free bar with no rules or supervision may likewise restrict the ability to complain about inappropriate behaviour later and also prepare yourself for being held responsible for the conduct of drink fuelled party goers towards more sober souls.
All of us would expect that fighting and sexual harassment to have serious consequences but not necessarily for the individuals to be sacked on the spot! And it has happened, albeit that such a dismissal may not be upheld as fair by a later Employment Tribunal looking at matters in the very cold light of day. The better route for bosses is to send any offenders home to sober up and then initiate disciplinary action in an atmosphere of more calm.
The harmless Secret Santa is also not immune. The side splitting mirth of givers and onlookers on the unwrapping of spangly undies to “Stick in the Mud” mortified Meg, leaves the employer potentially liable.
So how do we navigate the knife edge of enjoying and generating festive goodwill against accusations of permitting inappropriate behaviour, major financial liability, disruption, embarrassment and being a Party Pooper?
Caunters has considerable experience of helping employers to reduce these risks so that you can properly enjoy the festive fun. If the worst happens and you do get into scrapes, we act for both employers and employees. No one likes a kill joy, but likewise no one likes to fall foul of costly legal problems when a little planning can help avoid them.
About the author:
Simon Outten is a consultants solicitor at Caunters Solicitors, where he is responsible for developing and running the firm’s new Looe office.