December 01, 2019
Given the time of the year, we are here to remind Employers to be cognizant of the end of year Company party and the potential risks associated to same.
Whilst it is the “season to be jolly” and an End of Year Company Party (often referred to as the “Christmas Party”) can be great team building opportunity, it is important to remember that an Employer may be liable for the conduct of its Employees at such an event organised by the Employer, even when a party takes place somewhere other than in the workplace.
Employers should ensure that Employees understand the standard of conduct expected of them and that they are expected to observe the provisions of the Dignity at Work and Anti-Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment policies at work-related events.
The actions of Employees at an End of Year Party may potentially damage working relationships, reflect negatively on the Organisation, and also may lead to complaints and/ or disciplinary actions. 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. Whilst it is important for Employers to understand some of the risks that sometimes arise at this time of year, it is also important to be aware that holding such an event can foster goodwill towards the Organisation, and demonstrate to Employees that their commitment, dedication and hard work over the year is appreciated by the Organisation. Where there is an incident at an End of Year Party, it is imperative for all concerned that this is addressed. The Organisation has a duty of care to all its Employees, and to ignore an incident due to the fact that it occurred at an End of Year Party may leave the Organisation liable should a claim arise.
Reasonable steps to preventing an incident occurring:
Prior to holding an End of Year Party, or any work-related event, it should be made clear to Employees that should there be an incident or a subsequent allegation that these will be dealt with in exactly the same manner as if same had occurred during working hours. It is important that the Organisation takes reasonable steps to ensure that incidents at an End of Year Party or work-related event do not occur. Procedures which should be brought to Employee’s attention prior to the event should be:
Attendance at Work – To cover the Employees who contemplate not attending for work the day after an End of Year Party
Email, Internet and Social Media – To cover Employees tweeting, using Snapchat, Instagram or sending pictures of colleague via another medium
Dignity at Work – To cover anti-bullying, harassment and sexual harassment
Grievance and Disciplinary – If a case arises where there is misconduct, or an Employee has a work related grievance
Considerations when planning an End of Year Party:
Attendance of Event:
If the Christmas party is out of hours, the Employer must understand that some people have family responsibilities that may prevent them attending, therefore Employees should be made aware of the fact that they are not obliged to attend the event.
Food and Drink:
If, as is in the cases of a lot of end of year parties and work-related events, there is alcohol to be served, any free alcoholic beverages should be limited. Giving this, Employers also 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.
End of year parties or work-related events are also not the appropriate location for discussions in relation to performance, promotion, salary or career prospects. Words of encouragement and good intentions can be misinterpreted and may cause future issues.
Whilst many staff members may refer to the event as the traditional “Christmas party”, Employers are reminded that Christmas is a Christian celebration and it not observed by every religion. Taking that into consideration, all Employees should be made feel welcome at the event, or respected if they choose not to attend, and thus it may be more prudent to call the event the “End of Year Party” as opposed to the “Christmas Party”.
Despite end of year parties occurring mostly outside of the workplace, responsibility still lies with the Employer for the protection and safety of their Employees. Therefore, Employees should be provided with the details of public transport routes, or taxi facilities in the area where the event is being held.
Where the Christmas Party falls on a day whereby Employees will be required to attend work the following day, Employers should communicate to Employees that an Employee should not be at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol so that they do not endanger their own or another person's health and safety at work. Depending on the Organisation and the work they do, it may be preferable to host the Christmas party / social event at the weekend, this would ensure that Employees do not need to attend work the day after the event.
If an issue arises at the Christmas party or an allegation is made after the party, it is important the Employer handles such issues in the same manner that they would, had the incident occurred during working hours.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org / 01 5613594 to discuss how we can assist you.