Christmas Shenanigans

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Christmas Shenanigans

What not to do at the office party

The office Christmas party is an event everyone looks forward to and if it goes well, is enjoyable for all who attend. However as the recent police disciplinary case involving an argument between female police officers at an event for Senior Women in Police has shown, any works based event can also be fraught with the potential for disaster, especially when alcohol is involved.

An Assistant Chief Constable was found guilty of gross misconduct following an incident with a temporary superintendent at drinks event. The ACC is reported as having allowed herself to drink too much and when drunk breached required standards of professional behaviour, exposing her breasts to the temporary superintendent and accusing her of having breast enhancement surgery to “pander” to men.

This was not a Christmas party incident but here are a few tips to ensure your party is talked about in the office for all the right reasons.

Tips for employers

  • Although the party venue may be away from the office it is still a work related event and therefore employers will be held responsible if any inappropriate behaviour or ill-judged comments (particularly after consuming alcohol provided by the employer) results in a harassment or discrimination claim. Further, employers can be held vicariously liable for any injuries caused to an employee during a works event. Therefore employers should ensure that employees understand that normal disciplinary procedures apply and employees are expected to behave with courtesy and respect.
  • The office party is intended to be a relaxed environment and often the alcohol flows freely. However employers still have a duty of care to the health, safety and welfare of their employees and should keep an eye out for anyone who over-indulges. This is particularly the case if anyone is planning to drive. Employers should provide transport or ensure employees have the necessary information to arrange taxis home.
  • Over-indulgence can also lead to unplanned post-party absences. If you do want staff to attend the next day and be on time, it would be worth reminding staff that failure to do so may lead to disciplinary action. It might put a slight dampener on the party spirit but at least there can be no misunderstanding or confusion as to your expectations.
  • It is important to ensure that everyone is included and catered for. For example, providing alternatives for non-drinkers and accommodating dietary requirements. Any entertainment you are planning to provide should be carefully chosen and vetted beforehand so as not to cause offence to anyone.

Tips for employees

  • Remember that although you are there to enjoy yourself, you are still partying with colleagues and therefore will still make an impression. Be remembered for someone who can let their hair down and be good company rather than becoming someone to avoid in the office kitchen or the subject of office gossip. In more serious cases if you are deemed to have behaved inappropriately or caused offence your employers may take formal disciplinary action.
  • Keep your conversation non-work related. Don’t discuss colleagues or clients, as you never know who is behind you in the queue for the bar!
  • Ideally you will still heroically struggle in to work the day after the party and enjoy a post-party breakfast sandwich with your equally suffering colleagues, but if you really feel too unwell to attend work the next day, it is best to be honest. Don’t just fail to turn up and hope your employer will understand. You may be subject to disciplinary action if you hide under the duvet at home.

Although it may seem a lot to think about, careful planning and considerate behaviour can make all the difference to ensuring a good time is had by all and the next party being something to look forward to rather than fear. Enjoy!

Elaine Howard

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