Christmas Parties… avoid the pitfalls

karen talbot News

Employers’ Guide to Christmas Parties

As preparations for Christmas are under way, we have prepared some useful reminders of what employers should be aware during this festive period.  We certainly hope that good cheer and fun are on the cards, however, being aware of your responsibilities is important:

The Christmas Party is a work-related social event

Work parties fall within the remit of ‘in the course of employment’, therefore an employer is responsible for what happens during such events. The Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2015, make employers liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by their employees in the course of employment, unless they can show that they took reasonable steps to prevent such acts and, where incidents arise, that appropriate actions are taken

Possible Steps to Take:

Some of the items below may seem a little excessive, but that is a matter of judgement for yourselves.  The single most important and vital step, however, is that if you do become aware, when work resumes, of inappropriate behaviour, you MUST take appropriate action to ensure that there is no over-spill of any adverse treatment into the workplace:

  • It is advisable to ensure that some responsible managers are present;
  • Ensure that employees understand the standard of conduct expected of them at a Christmas party: circulate, or remind people of, the company’s Dignity at Work policy, which should include reference to bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace. Remind employees that work events fall under the terms of this policy and they are required not to behave in any way that would breach another colleague’s dignity, etc., if found in breach of the policy, employees may be subject to disciplinary action;
  • Make sure that employees are aware of the Social Media policy rules surrounding publishing photos, videos, tweets, etc. online to prevent any privacy infringements arising or damage being caused to the company’s reputation;
  • Advise employees that alcohol should be consumed responsibly and under no circumstances they are to drink and drive. Strongly encourage all employees to plan for getting home safely after the party;
  • Managers should be advised not to discuss career development or compensation with employees at the company Christmas party, as any discussions held with good intentions could be misinterpreted afterwards;
  • Managers themselves should be aware of their position as leaders in the organisation, and behave accordingly.

Health and Safety

Employers are obliged under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 and 2014, to provide, as far as is practicable, a safe place of work. Employers should be mindful of these obligations to employees who are required to work the day after the Christmas party, in particular – employees who drive or operate machinery. An employee should not be at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if that would endanger their own or another person’s health and safety at work and that expectation should clearly be set between an employee and their manager.

Holidays

In determining which employees are required to work over the Christmas period, be mindful that under the Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2015, discrimination based on any one of nine protected grounds is unlawful. These grounds are gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community. If you have employees who do not celebrate Christmas or do not have children, it may be considered to be discriminatory to require them to work during the holidays, while allowing other staff not to. To ensure that there is adequate cover over the holiday break, the decision should be made on the business needs of the company and/or employees should be given an option to volunteer for working specific days, if that is appropriate.  If there is a need to require people to work, then ensure that decisions are made on objective, business grounds, and not on personal characteristics (e.g. family status).

Contact us on Info@TalbotPierce.com or (01) 902 0031 to discuss how we may be of assistance.