Christmas parties are a wonderful opportunity to bond and reward staff for their hard work. But wrath, pride, lust, greed, envy, sloth and gluttony can all strike! And employers can be held liable for the actions of their staff.
Businesses can be, and are, held vicariously liable for the wrong-doings of people at Christmas parties. Alison Schreiber, from The HR Dept Durham discusses the risks and solutions.
Alison said: “The seven deadly sins summarise what can go wrong at a Christmas party rather succinctly. From being a glutton with food and particularly drink, to acting the sloth the next day with a hangover. Making unwanted lustful advances or succumbing to wrath with fisticuffs. Exhibiting greed and envy by inappropriately cornering a boss to discuss a pay rise or co-worker’s promotion, or pride in attempting to drive home after a drink.
“Unfortunately, these are something of a cliché at the Christmas party, which is sad for any victims of bad behaviour. But there needs to be greater awareness of the risk that the company can end up being a victim too, as they can be found legally liable for incidents that occur at their events.”
In a recent court case, a company was found vicariously liable when the managing director punched an employee, leaving him with brain damage. Because of the seniority of the offender and that the company had paid for the booze and taxis from the Christmas party to an afterparty, a sufficient link was made for vicarious liability.
Alison advised: “This is a very real risk, but there are ways to manage it whilst still hosting a good party. Remind staff beforehand of expected behaviour standards and that discipline and grievance policies will still apply at the party. Encourage people to book holiday the following day if they think they’ll overdo it. But never summarily discipline a miscreant at the party. Deal with it properly on the next working day. Now you can pop your corks!”