The Christmas Do… and don’ts

By Catherine Kerr

With Christmas fast approaching, everyone is more than ready to switch off and enjoy the most magical and merry time of year and as well as some much-needed time off work. However, Christmas time is also one of the most manic and busy times of the year, as we’re all pulled in a million different directions – attending nativity plays, doing the big food shop and getting everything in order for the new year when you return to work.

One stand-out event in most employee’s (and employer’s) calendar is the Christmas do, and by the time it finally arrives, everyone is in desperate need of a night of fun; laughter; Christmas tunes and letting their hair down. But, have you ever considered what the implications of bad behaviour at the Christmas party could mean for you when you sit back down at your desk?

Unfortunately, the merriment can sometimes go a little too far and employees can forget that the work’s Christmas Party is in fact an extension of the workplace. In a nutshell, this means that all of the employer’s policies and procedures apply to ensure employees are protected both inside and outside of working hours.

With this in mind, let’s skip ahead, everyone is back in work after the Christmas Party and an employee tells their manager that, at the Christmas Party, another employee tried to kiss them; or another employee was drunk and verbally abusive towards them or another employee was spotted taking drugs.

What happens next?

Ultimately, the employer would have to engage its standard disciplinary process and procedure which could result in the employee in question being suspended and/or issued with a disciplinary sanction or even dismissed following a fair and reasonable investigation and disciplinary process. Despite the events occurring outside of a typical office environment and outside of usual working hours, the employer’s responsibility to appropriately discipline its staff following any misdemeanours still applies.

You don’t want to start the New Year with a one-way sleigh ride to an Employment Tribunal. Employers can help to mitigate any potential issues that can arise at a work’s Christmas Party by reminding employees in advance that it is an extension of the workplace and setting a few ground rules before the party so that everyone can enjoy themselves without any awkward conversations back in the office.

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