Abigail Halcarz, employment solicitor in the commercial group at SGH Martineau LLP, warns businesses should be aware of the dos and don’ts for Christmas parties.
Halcarz said: “At a Christmas party, where employees can easily forget work and get carried away with the atmosphere, many will say and do things they would not normally consider doing.”
According to Halcarz, harassment and drink-fuelled aggression towards other colleagues is most likely to occur.
Here are her top tips which businesses should follow to avoid such problems at their annual Christmas party:
1. Invites should go to everyone, including those on family-related leave, or absent through illness or injury, as not doing so might result in claims of discrimination.
2. When employees can bring partners, do not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and assume all partners will be of the opposite sex.
3. Ensure that you have an equal opportunities/anti-harassment policy in place.
4. Shortly before the Christmas party, remind employees of the existence of the policy and confirm that it applies equally to business events outside of the workplace and outside of office hours.
5. Tell employees to enjoy themselves and have a good time, but remind them that inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated and could result in disciplinary action.
6. If hired entertainers tell racist, sexist or offensive jokes and the employer does not fulfil its duty to protect employees from this unwanted conduct, it could be liable for harassment claims.
7. Consider limiting the bar tab. Arguably it is irresponsible to provide limitless quantities of free alcohol to staff and a limitless free bar would not assist in defending any legal action resulting from an act carried out by a member of staff that was aggravated by alcohol consumption.
8. Consider appointing a senior, responsible employee to stay sober, monitor behaviour and step in if necessary.