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Work Christmas Party Season

“Tis the Season to be……Cautious”

Employers may be liable for incidents that occur at the Christmas party regardless of whether it takes place outside of the workplace or normal working hours.  Please be aware that Employers may also find themselves liable for complaints of inappropriate behaviour like insulting conduct and unwanted sexual advances, etc, which may have occurred as a result of excessive alcohol consumption during the event.

Given that most employees perhaps have not seen each other a day-to-day basis, serious catch ups are on the cards, however with alcohol in the mix we would recommend taking Pre-emptive Action prior to the party/get together to ensure that it’s a good night for all and there are no unsavoury issues or Grievances to deal with on the post-party Monday morning….

Pre-emptive Action

As employers you don’t have the automatic entitlement to take disciplinary action following an incident at a work related event, because employees have a reasonable expectation that what they do outside of working hours is not subject to company disciplinary rules. However, employers can take the following steps:

  • Ensure all employees are aware of clear policies on bullying, harassment, email and internet use and disciplinary procedures.
  • Issue a Memo to staff in advance of the event to ensure they are aware of the company’s expectations of conduct that they may be subject to disciplinary action for unacceptable behaviour.
  • Remind staff to drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation.
  • Consider arranging transportation for employees to and from the event to reduce the likelihood of drink-driving, and help ensure that employees get home safely.
  • Employers should ensure that the venue is safe and appropriate, bearing in mind its suitability for any disabled employees.
  • Managers are advised to avoid work-related discussions at all costs.
  • Coach managers on how to respond to any unwanted conduct that may occur at the event.
  • If any inappropriate behaviour occurs, investigate all complaints promptly upon return to work, making reference to the memo mentioned above.
  • Work colleagues should avoid placing images from the Christmas Party on social media, but if they do, it should only be after securing the permission of every colleague included
  • Absence Management − where the Christmas party falls on a day when employees will be required to attend work the following day, employers should communicate to staff not to be at work under the influence of alcohol so that they do not endanger their own or another person’s health and safety at work.

Be mindful that some employees still may not be comfortable with an in person Christmas Party, so be mindful of individual concerns and perhaps offer an alternative if an employee makes you aware that they are feeling this way.

It is undoubtedly nice to give back to your employees, as well as a team-building opportunity for employees’ to mark the festive season however whilst out in a group setting employees are still representing the company and should conduct themselves in a manner that is in line with the company Dignity & Respect Policy. It is advisable to remind employees of this using some of the pre-emptive measures above.

For more information on this topic, a copy of the Memo mentioned above or any other HR Support please don’t hesitate to contact HR@ISME.ie.