Festive Misconduct

Top Tips for Employers to manage the Festive Season!

As we are all aware, Christmas is fast approaching, and we are therefore reaching the season to be jolly! Indeed, many organisations will be arranging Christmas Parties with their workforce. So, this means us HR / Employment Law elves become busy dealing with all the employees that do not seem to behave themselves (yes, we report back to Santa to put them on the naughty list!)

Key Group Services are therefore sending this top tip guide to give you some pointers on how to manage during the festive season: 

Christmas parties are an extension of the workplace!

It is important to be mindful that when there is a social event connected to work, that workplace procedures should be adopted by both the employer and the employee. This is whether you have a fancy three course meal, or you simply invite all staff to the local for a few pints on the final day of work!

This has been demonstrated through case law where the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that in the case of The Chief Constable of Lincolnshire v Stubbs, the Chief Constable was vicariously liable for the actions of a male officer who sexually harassed a female colleague whilst at the pub with work.

Therefore, it is important that all employees are aware that they are expected to behave at the Christmas party as they would in the workplace.

Walking home from the Christmas party, still related to the workplace!

When employees are making their way home from any Christmas party, it may be that certain employees travel home together, meaning that they are still carrying out an activity related to work.

In the case of Gimson v Display by Design Ltd, it was found that Mr Gimson assaulted a colleague whilst walking home from the Christmas party. This was investigated by the employer and subsequently Mr Gimson was summarily dismissed as a result. Mr Gimson then submitted claims of unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal on the basis that the altercation occurred outside of work. However, the Tribunal did not agree with Mr Gimsons argument and found that if it was not for the Christmas party, which is closely associated with work, he would not have been walking home with his colleague.

This demonstrates that alcohol is no excuse for misconduct at the end of the works party. Indeed, if altercations occur, as the employer you may still be able to take action and it is recommended to remind the employees of this.

Be careful of promises made!

Alcohol is a substance that is known to lower inhibitions. Therefore, as the employer it is important to be mindful as to what discussions is had with employees during Christmas parties.

In the case of Judge v Crown Leisure, Mr Judge was promised by a Director that they intended to align his salary with an employee who was on considerably more money. When Mr Judge became aware that this was not in fact the case, he resigned and claimed constructive dismissal to the Tribunal. His claim was dismissed by the tribunal; however, it is clear from the judgement that employers must be mindful of such conversations as there may be situations where these become contractually binding.

It is highly recommended to not make promises about pay rises or promotions at the Christmas party on this basis, the employer in this case was not held to it, but another Tribunal may not be as sympathetic!

What to take from the above?

To issue a simple communication to all employees to outline that they are expected to behave as they would in work on the Christmas party, for ease, we have included a link to the memo below.

You may also wish to specify specific expectations within the attached memo such as the following: 

  • Must at all times behave in a friendly, respectful, civil and sensible manner towards their work colleagues.
  • Must not flirt with other work colleagues unless it is clear that such conduct is welcomed.
  • Will not photocopy any part of their anatomy using company equipment under any circumstances.
  • Should not be involved in brawling or fighting, attempted or otherwise, towards other colleagues, taxi drivers or staff of the venue in which the party takes place and thereafter for the remainder of the evening.
  • Should consume alcohol responsibly.
  • Will not use the Christmas party to address matters of pay, benefits or workplace issues with the Directors, any members of the management team or a fellow employee.
  • Are hereby advised that if they agree to attend the company funded Christmas party but fail to attend, a sum of money equivalent to the cost of one person will be deducted from their January salary payment.