For many of us, it’s been three years since we’ve been to a proper ‘Works’ Christmas do’ so we are fully expecting emails from worried clients when things haven’t exactly gone to plan! If it’s a work-arranged party, work policy and procedures extend to those events.
Alcohol, coupled with a more relaxed atmosphere, can influence decision-making, resulting in sometimes aggressive behaviour and claims of bullying or harassment.
As employers, you have a duty of care for your employees and this duty can be breached by inaction when it is clear violence or other unlawful conduct took place.
A time it went wrong…
In an incident in 2017 involving two colleagues, a manager was put into a headlock which resulted in her losing consciousness. She fell and hit her head and suffered facial paralysis. The incident was caught on CCTV.
Originally, she decided she didn’t want any action to be taken at work but due to the fact her injuries were potentially long-term, she decided to report it to the police and changed her mind about action at work and spoke to her employer.
Later, the manager felt the matter was not dealt with sufficiently and resigned, claiming constructive unfair dismissal.
An employment tribunal found the incident at the Christmas party was “inextricably linked” to the workplace and the CCTV evidence showed the manager was strangled. The employment judge decided there was breach of employment contract and constructive unfair dismissal.
This highlights the importance of addressing incidents that occur at work events, including parties.
What you can do
A policy on conduct at work-related events is essential to inform employees of the behaviour expected during such events, and the implications if this is breached.
In the run up to the party, please remind employees they are representing the business at such events, of the standards of behaviour expected, and what can happen if they are found to be in breach of your policy.
We also suggest, where you are organising events, someone is present (perhaps a manager) to stay sober.
If it does go wrong, a full investigation is always necessary to find out what happened, especially when those present have been drinking.
We hope your Christmas parties are not like the above example and are safe and enjoyable!