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2nd December 2016

Tis the season to be jolly, but what happens when your employees get a little TOO jolly at the work Christmas party?

Over the years we have heard of some outrageous behaviour including employees being sick on the boss’s lap and stripping off on the dance floor.  David Southall, employment law consultant for ELAS, says that it’s important to remember that, while a Christmas party is a social occasion and everyone wants to have fun, it is also an extension of the workplace and people should behave accordingly.

David says: “Nobody wants to be a humbug this time of year but employees should know that what seems like a harmless bit of fun at the time can turn into an HR nightmare on Monday morning. When the alcohol is flowing it’s easy for banter to cross the line into offensive behaviour or sexual harassment. This can in turn lead to constructive dismissal or discrimination claims with the potential to tarnish a company’s reputation or result in large compensation pay-outs.”Christmas Party

ELAS has compiled the top 6 disciplinary calls they received following last years’ festivities:

  1. A company held its Christmas party in a local hotel which was also a client of the company. As soon as the company senior management team left, around 11pm, an employee was seen taking illegal drugs.  They were dismissed.
  2. An employee did not receive promotion because she had not attended the work Christmas party. She won her case against the company for discrimination.
  3. A company held a Christmas party for employees’ children. Two employees got into an unnecessarily heated and threatening exchange over their respective children’s prizes from pass the parcel. Both were given written warnings.
  4. A new Finance Director handed out achievement awards to various members of different departments at the Christmas party but completely ignored one department. In the New Year all the members of that department handed in their resignations. The Finance Director was dismissed.
  5. A senior sales manager thought he was under the legal limit but was caught drink driving on his way home from the Christmas party. He was banned from driving for 6 months and dismissed under frustration of contract as there was no alternative position for him.
  6. In his quest for a joke photo opportunity for social media, an employee placed drawing pins on a colleague’s chair at the company Christmas party. They were spotted by the colleague before his daughter, also an employee, sat down on them. The employee insisted that it was an innocent prank and did not appear to recognise the disciplinary, health and safety and data protection issues, despite having them all in his contractual documentation. He was dismissed.

David Southall continues: “We would advise all clients to have measures in place to prevent bad behaviours, not just at the Christmas party but throughout the festive season. With statistics showing an increase in drink driving and drug driving arrests in December from Mon-Fri between 6am and 10pm it’s not just the day of the Christmas party when you should be alert.”

Do’s and Don’ts

DO have fun!
DO dress appropriately
DO mingle and talk to people you don’t see on a daily basis
DO keep your hands to yourself
DO arrange a lift/taxi home if you are planning on drinking
DO know when to go home

DON’T do your party trick, you know the one…..
DON’T insult the boss or their other half
DON’T start gossip or tell everyone your issues
DON’T mention promotions or complaints
DON’T post embarrassing photos or anecdotes on social media
DON’T call in sick the next day


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