Christmas parties are a great way for companies to show their appreciation and give thanks to employees, and for colleagues to meet and relax in social setting. However, there are legal factors that companies should take into account.
The top contender for a likely claim is harassment. Of the legally protected characteristics* the most likely area for a claim is sexual harassment. Harassment is unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating the other employee’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that other employee. *The protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Harassment claims can come from the conduct of third parties which could include workers at the venue, or other guests. Harassment can also occur when related to a perceived protected characteristic. It is the person’s perception of the unwanted conduct that will count.
There is plenty of opportunity for discrimination claims. Ensure you consider all religions and beliefs of your employees and ensure your celebrations are open to all. Things to consider are whether the venue is neutral and accessible to everyone, and checking whether non-alcoholic drinks will be available, and whether vegetarians will be catered for, and ask whether any of your employees require specific food for religious, dietary or allergy reasons.
Health and Safety obligations continue for employer and employee at a social event. Responsibilities could extend to considering how employees can safely get home after the event, and ensuring any venue does not present a health and safety risk to attendees.
A Christmas party arranged and financed by a Company will most probably be considered an extension of the work place and therefore employer obligations to ensure employees are treated fairly and equally, and are safe, remain.
There are steps and measures to position your defence before to any Christmas celebrations from policy introduction / review, and to issuing a simple statement about acceptable conduct of those attending any event.
We firmly believe that it’s better to be proactive than reactive and strongly recommend protecting your company before the event rather than trying to make the best of things after the event. Give us a ring at the office on 0845 463 3231 to talk about how we can help to shape your company’s defence from potential claims. It’s quick and easy to send a few documents for you to hand out before the event, than deal with fall-out and claims after the event.