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All we want for Christmas is…no claim!

Who can believe that in only a few weeks it’s Christmas?  Doesn’t it seem like only yesterday that we were thinking about parties, presents and all things joyful in 2015?  Well it’s here and occasionally the fun and frivolity can get the better of some people and professionalism goes out of the window!  So what can we consider during the season of good will to ensure we are considerate to all?

Firstly, we should consider those who don’t celebrate Christmas – be mindful of people’s religion or belief and think about any potential discrimination issues you might face by making any festive celebrations compulsory.

If you decide that a Christmas party is the way to go, how can we make sure people have fun and let their hair down but not let themselves down?

Without being too much of a party pooper, you need to make sure you set some ground rules up front in terms of expectations and avoid some kind of sexual harassment claim, bullying claim or a disciplinary procedure because someone has posted something on social media or had a fight with a colleague in a drunken stupor.

A case that demonstrates this nicely is Gimson v Display By Design Limited – Mr Gimson had attended the work Christmas party and on the walk home with some colleagues there was a falling out.  Mr Gimson punched a colleague and following a disciplinary procedure, was summarily dismissed. He claimed that this was not in work time and therefore, it could not be a fair dismissal.

The tribunal disagreed on the basis that the assault would not have happened had the Christmas party not taken place, and the employer had reasonably concluded that the events were sufficiently closely connected to work to have an impact on the employment relationship.

If you do have policies in place, you can refer people to these –  ones to think about for this time of year might be Social Media, Bullying and Harassment, Equal Opportunities and Diversity, Grievance and Disciplinary to name a few.

However, if you don’t, here are a few tips to help make your Christmas party one to remember for all of the right reasons…
  • Ensure your employees understand that expectations of behaviour apply even out of the workplace;
  • Remind employees about any potential discrimination issues and that any inappropriate behaviour may be dealt with formally;
  • Discuss what is and is not acceptable when it comes to posting photos and comments on any form of social media;
  • If your party is on a night when employees need to work the next day, ensure they understand that ‘over-indulging’ does not excuse them from coming to work the next day;
  • Think about those on maternity/paternity leave, those with a disability and those under 18 years of age;
  • If there is any kind of incident deal with it pragmatically but if it’s serious enough for any formal disciplinary action, ensure you follow your disciplinary procedure.

If you do have any concerns or just want a bit of advice, we are always here to help so please get in touch.

Aside from this, we want you all to have fun and safely enjoy the festive season so we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!