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Tis the season to be jolly...within reason

Now we are in the midst of the Christmas season, Thomas Mansfield has provided some guidelines regarding work policies at events such as Christmas parties.


Holding a Christmas party for your staff can be a great opportunity to build a sense of company culture and reward your employees for their hard work. The Christmas Party is usually the highlight of the year, but sometimes it can get a little out of hand.










Meredith Hurst, partner at Thomas Mansfield, said, “Each year at Thomas Mansfield, we see a bump in the rate of inquiries and representations at Christmas relating to behaviour at the big office party. On many cases we see that, if excessive intake of alcohol hadn’t been involved, the issue very likely wouldn’t have happened.”


Striking a balance between making sure your employees don’t overstep the mark and putting a dampener on the whole event can be hard. Hurst advises that "an important factor for employers is to gently remind staff in advance of any social event – particularly those occurring off site – that even though this is a social event, they still represent the employer.


“It’s prudent to remind them of the existence of drug and alcohol misuse policies, without putting the dampeners on the whole thing. In the vast majority of cases, trusting staff to act in the right way can reap its own rewards."

Drink tokens and free bars are often a point of contention in the run-up to an event, but it‘s important that you make the allowance within a responsible range. Whilst it might seem like a generous gesture, having large amounts of money behind the bar for free drinks simply encourages excessive drinking. Apart from the obvious issue of awful hangovers, excessive amounts of free alcohol can lead to much bigger issues, such as violence and harassment. The best course of action is to limit the amount of free drinks to a responsible level. This encourages a good time but also moderates the possibility of unpleasantness. You can then arrange for employees to safely take the party to another venue if they want to continue the night independently.  










Excessive behaviour can also cause harm to third parties, such as waiters, bar staff or members of the public. The position, from an employment law perspective, is far from clear in this scenario, and would likely be taken on a case-by-case basis. It’s possible, however, that an employer could be found ‘vicariously liable’ for their employee’s actions, having broken their duty of care to third parties. 


HR professional, Renae Jackson, added, “There’s a common misconception that companies are not liable for events outside the workplace. Unfortunately this isn’t true – and in any case, these things can still linger on past Monday back in the office.” 


“When companies host a Christmas party, they hope it will be incident-free and full of festive cheer. Unfortunately, underlying office tensions –and sometimes amorous intentions – don’t always mix well with alcohol. In the workplace, it’s far easier to set the parameters of acceptable behaviour; it’s whether colleagues remember (or care) about these proprieties after reaching for a drink.”


Best practice dictates that an employer should make efforts to ensure their staff has as much fun as possible so as to reap the various moral and teambuilding benefits such a social event can have. The key point to remember is that staff should be reminded that, despite being off-site or outside of working hours, they are still representing the employer and as such should act in a responsible and professional manner.

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