Many of us spend November and December celebrating the Christmas festivities with colleagues – it’s an exciting time, but what happens when things don’t go to plan? As practice owners, you must know how to protect yourself if an incident arises.
You might think that Christmas parties are exempt from employment legislation – however, the law states that employers are responsible for any events happening ‘in the course of employment.’ This includes any social events, such as Christmas or birthday parties.
This law was established following the case of Bellman V Northampton Recruitment , concerning a severe injury occurring during an extension of the Christmas party, spurred on by a discussion about business matters.
January always brings with it an influx of claims relating to physical fights, inappropriate behaviour or failure to attend work after parties. The law deems work-based events an extension of the workplace, and you – the practice owner – have a responsibility to keep your employees safe by minimising any risks. As a result, you will be held ‘vicariously liable’ for any incidents occurring during the event.
Many claims relate to offensive and potentially discriminatory language, usually fuelled by alcohol consumption. Although virtual Christmas parties may be exempt from threats of physical violence, remember that you could still be held accountable for any inappropriate verbal comments made during a Teams or Zoom call.
As the practice owner, the best way to protect yourself against incidents occurring during an in-person or virtual event is to ensure that all staff undertake comprehensive equality and diversity training. To cover yourself for all eventualities, you should also establish a robust Christmas party policy for your practice.
I’ve drawn up a robust Christmas party policy that will cover you for any upcoming events – all you need to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Christmas parties are an excellent way to maintain staff morale and show your employees that you’re grateful for all their hard work over the year. Often they go off without a hitch, but if something goes amiss, remember that it’s important to protect yourself and your practice.