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A legal guide to Christmas parties

With the Christmas party season in full swing, a legal law expert is warning that employers should be mindful of the potential issues that may arise.

Kimberley Barrett-St. Vall, Employment and HR partner at regional law firm Napthens, warns that although a good time to boost staff morale and celebrate hard work and accomplishments, Christmas parties should be considered an extension of the working environment.

This means that employers are responsible for the health, safety and well-being of all staff at a party in the same way that they would be at the workplace during normal working hours. This means that employers can be held ‘vicariously liable’ for the acts of their employees whilst at the Christmas party.

Kimberley said: “Although a limit has been placed on the vicarious liability of an employer, it is sensible for an employer to be aware that each matter will turn on the individual facts and some after-parties may still be deemed an extension of the workplace.

“In order to ensure that the Christmas party goes off without a hitch employers should consider a few simple suggestions.”

When arranging a Christmas party employers should:

Invitations – Invite all employees to the Christmas party in order to avoid any complaints of discrimination. Invitations to the party should also be extended to those on maternity or paternity leave and in some instances should also be extended to those on sick leave.

Venue – Make sure the venue is appropriate and accessible for all employees, including offering facilities for those with a disability.

Entertainment and speakers – Brief all speakers or entertainers in advance of the party to make sure their material is suitable and will not cause offence.

Kimberley added: “Studies show that drink-fuelled behaviour is the root cause of many tribunal claims each year. In light of this employers should take the time in advance of the party to remind employees of the organisation’s equal opportunities and harassment policies.

“Also, indicate any behaviour that would be deemed unacceptable and highlight how this will be dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.

“They should also take steps to limit the effect of alcohol consumption including limiting the amount of alcohol available and offering non-alcoholic alternatives, providing food and offering transport from the venue.”

If you require further information on the above, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Employment & HR team.

Kimberley Barret, employment lawyer