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Rebecca Peterson of Wansbroughs

Expert opinion: The work Christmas party – employers beware!

The festive season is upon us and employers need to be aware that they could be held accountable for the acts of their employees at the work Christmas party.

Work Christmas parties are great for boosting staff morale, but the inappropriate behaviour of employees at the work Christmas party could result in potential headaches for the employer.

Work Christmas parties are for the purposes of the law regarded as an extension of work, even if they take place outside of normal office hours and not held at the workplace.

All employers should consider the following checklist:

Company Policies Review your policies and make sure that they are up-to-date. For example, Anti-harassment and Bullying policy; Equal Opportunities policy; and Alcohol and Drug Misuse policy.

Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures Your policies should set out the standards of behaviours expected of your staff at work any unacceptable behaviour at the work Christmas party, for example, over consumption of alcohol, use of illegal drugs, violence, inappropriate language or physical contact should be dealt with as a misconduct issue under your disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Warning to your managers Be careful about the conversations that you have with staff or the promises that you make at the work Christmas party. For example, any discussions about promotion, salary increase, bonuses etc could be relied upon.

Be careful not to discriminate Consideration and sensitivity should be given to:-

  • different beliefs and religions. For example, catering for different religious dietary requirements such as non-alcoholic drinks and vegetarian options.
  • the venue – so that the party is accessible to everyone. For example, the venue should have access for disabled staff and be suitable for staff of all ages.
  • the time of day that the party is held. For example, staff may have primary childcare responsibilities and so are potentially restricted on the time of day that they can attend.
  • whether staff partners are invited. For example, treat staff who are in same-sex relationships the same as staff who are in heterosexual relationships.

Absenteeism the day after Any lateness and unauthorised absence from work the day after the work Christmas party should be treated as misconduct under your disciplinary procedure.

Rebecca Peterson is an employment law specialist at Wansbroughs in Devizes. Contact her on 01380 733300 or at