When Christmas Drinks Turn Sour
What Employers Need To Remember For Any Festive Work Get Togethers Including The Christmas Party
The Christmas party often involves plenty of alcohol—which can lead to unfortunate consequences for those who over-indulge. Employees and Employers need to be mindful of their responsibilities to avoid some potentially awkward conversations when everyone is sober and back in work.
Although a staff party is usually held outside working hours and away from the company’s premises, it will still be part of the ‘work environment’, which means the employer will be at risk of liability for employees’ actions. Over the years we have heard of with various cases involving punch ups, an axe-wielding employee, and the scaling, and bringing down, of a large Christmas tree – so there is plenty of reason for companies to beware!
Alcohol is usually to blame and the more that is given the more chance that standards of behaviour will slip. For this reason, employers might be wary of offering a free bar which can encourage binge drinking.
Just remember that organisations are liable for any discriminatory acts of its employees which are carried out in the course of employment. This means that an employer could be liable to an employee who is faced with unwanted advances by a colleague at the office Christmas party.
The law is also clear that it does not matter whether these advances are carried out with the employer’s knowledge or approval. It is, however, a defence for the employer to demonstrate that it took “all reasonable steps” to prevent the colleague from harassing that employee.
The most important thing is for employers to remind staff in advance of a Christmas party that they want everybody to have a good time – and as part of that, alcohol consumption will not be accepted as an excuse for any misconduct or gross misconduct.