End of year parties, as with work-related social events, can be a great team building exercise and a way to celebrate a successful year. But Employers can still be held to be ‘liable’ for events that take place at the event unless it can be shown that all reasonable steps were taken to prevent unwanted behaviour, leading to complaints and/ or disciplinary actions.

Alcohol is most likely consumed at the office party, which can increase the risk of unwanted comments and physical contact. Employers should take the opportunity to remind Employees of the standard of conduct expected of them and that they must observe the provisions of the Dignity at Work and Anti-Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment policies at work-related events. And, if an incident takes place at the office party, Employees should be reminded the accusation will be investigated and acted upon in the same way it would if it happened in the workplace.

Health, Safety and Employee Relations: There is always a risk that the actions of Employees at an End of Year Party may potentially damage working relationships and reflect negatively on the Organisation. Employers have a duty of care to all Employees and should take reasonable steps to ensure that inappropriate conduct at these events does not arise; this includes harassment, sexual harassment and bullying.

Under the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 to 2015, employees are protected from any form of harassment. If an Employee can prove that unwanted conduct by a colleague violated his/her dignity by creating an intimidating, humiliating or offensive environment, they may have grounds to lodge a harassment claim against the Employer.

Use of social media: Employees should be reminded of their responsibilities under the Organisation’s social media policy in terms of posting inappropriate photographs or comments.

The “Day After the Night Before”/ Post-party absenteeism: If the event falls on a day where Employees will be required to attend work the following day, Employers should make it clear that it is unacceptable for an Employee to attend work under the influence of drugs or alcohol so that they are not a danger to themselves or others. If possible, it would be preferable to hold the event on Fridays or the weekend.

Attendance of Event: If the Christmas party is out of hours, Employers must understand that some people have family responsibilities that may prevent them attending, and Employees should be made aware of the fact that they are not obliged to attend the event.

Food and Drink: Employers need to be sensitive to Employees who don’t drink alcohol or who don’t eat certain foods, and should ensure there are non-alcoholic drinks available and alternative food options.

Inappropriate Discussions: Social occasions are not an appropriate place to discuss performance, promotion, salary or career prospects.

Travel Facilities: As already highlighted, the health and safety of Employees is still the responsibility of the Employer. Therefore, Employers should provide the details of public transport or taxi facilities in the area where the event is being held.

Inclusion: Christmas is a Christian celebration and it is not observed by every religion and consideration should be given to ensure all Employees are made feel welcome at the event, or respected if they choose not to attend. So potentially referring to the event as an “End of Year Party” might be more appropriate.

If you have any concerns with regards to your Organisation’s End of Year Party, please do not hesitate to contact the team at Adare Human Resource Management – info@adarehrm.ie / 01 5613594 to discuss how we can assist you.