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Bah Humbug - Christmas Parties & What To Be Wary Of!

View profile for Theresa Carling
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Rather than trot out the usual warnings about Christmas parties and the pitfalls of allowing interactions between colleagues heavily influenced and emboldened by Christmas spirit(s) and the Christmas holidays, I thought I would instead consider some issues which may, but hopefully won’t, affect your gatherings.

Does A Suspended Employee Have The Right To Come To the Christmas Party?

Obviously, the reason for the employee being suspended is usually an act of misconduct which needs investigation.  The first question to ask is why the employee has been suspended in the first place which may in itself be enough to justify asking them to stay away from the Christmas party.  In most cases of suspension there should be a clear instruction in the suspension letter about the individual staying away from their place of  work and  other employees.  For that reason, the likelihood is that that suspension would extend to any Christmas party.  Obviously, where an employee has simply been moved or suspended from another role within the business (say for example there has been a customer complaint and they have therefore been moved to a back room role) then that would not be sufficient to require the employee to stay away from the Christmas party. 

An interesting point and one you hopefully won’t have to deal with. 

 Should The Temps Be Invited To The Christmas Party?

Thanks to the very well-loved Agency Workers Regulations 2010 a hirer must ensure that all of its agency workers are able to access its collective facilities and amenities from day one.  But does the company Christmas party qualify as an amenity?  This has not yet been considered by a Court and opinion is divided.

From a practical point of view, regardless of the legal position, you would probably have to be a bit of Scrooge to exclude people that may well have worked for you longer than some of your existing staff. Bah Humbug indeed!

Problems At The Christmas Party…

 I won’t go into this in great depth as every employment law article written from mid-November onwards deals with this point.  However, in summary, employers should be aware that the Christmas party will largely be considered an extension of the work place.  You could therefore be potentially be liable for the actions of your drunken employees.  Obviously the only way to avoid this entirely is to not have a party in the first place.  More practically, you might wish to remind employees that any misconduct during the Christmas party could ultimately be used against them in a disciplinary situation which may make them think twice before engaging in any drunken tomfoolery.

What if employees continue celebrating after the official party has finished?

A recent case has suggested that the actions of staff at the ‘after party’ are not the responsibility of the employer.  In this case,  an individual was battered by a director  at 3am in a hotel bar after the party was not able to establish that this was in the course of employment and  the individual who committed the assault was therefore the correct Defendant, not the company.  

In spite of the potential issues, the vast majority of parties will run smoothly and most employees will behave themselves.

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

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