December 14, 2007

Xmas Party Disasters – Employment Law

Deck the halls with boughs of holly – tis the season to be jolly. And quite often to behave very badly when alcohol and the informal situation of a Staff Xmas function combine to lower inhibitions.
People can do or say embarassing things that they (and often the person they do or say them to) will later regret.

The employer’s general duty to ensure the health and safety of their staff will almost certainly include all the “host responsibility” measures that apply on licensed premises. It will also ideally extend to establising and reminding staff about policies to prevent sexual harassment and abusive behavior. It is very important that managers remain sufficiently in charge of their faculties to prevent and defuse any situations that could potentially give rise to a grievance for failing to take action to remedy a situation they knew about.

I dealt with a case last year in which a manager saw an older male employee leading a very drunk and much younger female employee away from the cafeteria during a staff Xmas “do”. The manager was himself tipsy and made ribald comments as they departed. He was later very upset to find himself on the recieving end of two grievances – one for humiliating the female employee, and one for failing to protect her from the sexual harassment she suffered at the hands of the older male employee.

One of the case histories on the site covers the issue of employee’s responsibilities at a “work do”.