With Christmas work parties just around the corner, employment lawyers at Hegarty Solicitors are warning employers that they are still liable for bad behaviour by their staff at Christmas parties.
Martin Bloom, Partner and Head of Employment Law at Hegarty Solicitors explained, “Many employers do not realise that they can still be liable if the party takes place out of hours or in a hired venue. Generally if a company has organised a party, then they can be liable for any bad behaviour of the staff at the party.”
Recent cases have highlighted the difficulty in identifying the boundaries of liability when considering incidents occurring during work related social events.
In Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd, the High Court held that a company was not vicariously liable for an assault on an employee that took place following a company Christmas party. The assault took place during ‘impromptu drinks’ at a different hotel following the company Christmas party.
The High Court was satisfied that although the assault was by a director of the company and was provoked by a heated discussion about a work matter, as it occurred after and not during the company Christmas party it could not be considered to have occurred ‘in the course of the employment’.
Advice for Employers
Although in this case and in these circumstances the employer was not found to be liable, things can all too easily get out of hand at Christmas parties. Employers must be aware that they can be held responsible for employees’ actions at company social events.
Employers should consider the following when planning a Christmas party:
- Try to moderate the level of alcohol consumption, it may be easier to hold a lunch time event or put a limit the amount of free alcohol available.
- Before the party, tell staff the standard of behaviour you expect (especially if entertaining clients) and warn them that that any misconduct may result in disciplinary action.
- If you have booked a comedian, check that their material is appropriate and will not constitute sexual or racial harassment.
- Remind staff to make safe travel arrangements home.
- If you have work the day after the party, advise employees that ‘sickies’ will not be tolerated and any unauthorised no-shows will be investigated. Also, that they should be aware of the dangers of driving the day after drinking alcohol.
Martin concluded,” Christmas parties are good for boosting staff morale and loyalty, and following the above tips will help make your party a success for both the workers and employers.”