Back in 1984, Band Aid sang “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
In my view, the title of this song identifies another important employment law principle which is relevant to the office Christmas party.
It is established in law that an office event which takes place outwith the office environment and outwith office time can still be deemed an “extension of the work place”. This effectively means that employees can be disciplined for unacceptable behaviour at the office party and, more worryingly, employers can be held liable for their employees’ actions at that party.
If a drunken employee were to harass a colleague at the office Christmas party, the employer could potentially be vicariously liable for any claim of sexual harassment from the colleague. This principle permits that colleague to raise a claim of sexual harassment against both the drunken employee and the vicariously-liable employer, if the event took place during this office party.
For this reason it is important for employers to set out to employees, prior to the party, the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Employers should provide clear written guidance to all employees reminding them of any discrimination, bullying or harassment policies which will still have effect at the office party. Employers would also be well advised to remind employees that fighting, excessive alcohol consumption, inappropriate behaviour and sexist or racist remarks will not be tolerated.
These actions should hopefully make Joe Bloggs think twice before downing his thirteenth Jagerbomb and making his move on the HR manager. Alternatively, if he does make that unwanted drunken advance at the party, the employer’s prior warning makes it easier for the employer to take disciplinary action against Joe Bloggs on the Monday morning.
Employers should definitely make sure employees know it’s Christmas (subject to the caveats above!).Simon Allison Partner – Employment Law
The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.
Blackadders takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the content of this site is accurate and up to date. The site is not, however, intended as a substitute for seeking legal or other professional advice but rather as an informative guide to the services provided by Blackadders and topical legal developments. Site visitors should always seek advice tailored to their specific situation. Consequently, Blackadders accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by anyone acting or failing to act on the basis of information contained on this site. Downloading of material contained on this site is at the user’s own risk and all necessary virus checks must first be carried out by the user. Blackadders is not responsible for the material found on any web sites linked to this one and links to this site may only be made with Blackadders prior consent.
Blackadders owns the copyright in this blog and all material contained on it. The material on this site may be downloaded for personal use only and must not be altered. Otherwise, Blackadders’ written consent is required before any material on this site is reproduced, copied or transmitted in any way.
Information passed to us via this site is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except if authorised by you or required by law.
© Blackadders LLP 2022
Members of the Law Society of Scotland.
Blackadders Solicitors is a trading name of Blackadders LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in Scotland No SO301600 whose registered office is 30 & 34 Reform Street, Dundee, DD1 1RJ. Reference to a ‘partner’ is to a member of Blackadders LLP.