The problems associated with Christmas parties are the same difficulties employers face throughout the year, at any work social event. An employer can protect itself if it can prove that it took reasonable steps to prevent unwanted incidents.
There are certain factors at play that influence behaviour, which the employer needs to be aware of:
- Alcohol (especially if supplied in any quantity by the employer). This can alter the normal boundaries of acceptable behaviour. In the context of a Christmas party, alcohol can loosen inhibitions. Problems that were nevern mentioned before can suddenly be brought up. An employee may think this is an appropriate time to get something off their chest.
- Different location. Removal from the place of work can often imply different rules and a more relaxed approach to behavioural requirements.
It is important that an employer protects itself and it can do so without too much dampening of the Christmas spirit by following this advice:
- Review the “Dignity at Work” policy and ensure that it clearly states the employer will not tolerate bullying, harassment or sexual harassment. The policy should state that it includes work-related social events. The policy should be circulated to all employees.
- Employees should be reminded that inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas party will not be tolerated and may lead to disciplinary action.
- Review the social media policy to ensure it sets out the consequences of publishing pictures online from the Christmas party that may cause damage to the reputation of the company or affect a colleague’s right to privacy.
- Employees should be informed that alcohol consumption at the Christmas party should be moderate.
Any complaints made after the Christmas party should be treated seriously and investigated quickly. If necessary, disciplinary action should be taken. However, ensure that it is appropriate and proportionate to the incident and that is is consistently applied.
If you have any questions in relation to the above, please contact Helen Coughlan on 045 431542.