Christmas Party Advice
Christmas party season is here again. Whilst these are always fun for your employees sometimes they can get a bit out of hand and leave you the employer with more than just a headache!
With more and more employment legislation to be aware of in terms of protection for the employees’ employers may need to rethink their approach to the traditional Christmas party to protect themselves from potential tribunal claims.
Even though the party might be held out of work hours if it is work organised then we are all still bound by the expectations of conduct that would normally be in place. It is still the employer’s responsibility to ensure as far as possible your staff’s safety and well being.
It’s also not just legislation to think of, it’s the credibility and reputation of your Company locally.
You might think people at law firms would know better. Apparently not…
In a recent case before the Employment Appeal Tribunal in London, a female employee of a law firm in Suffolk claimed that gossip about her pregnancy following the firm’s Christmas party in 2007 constituted sex discrimination.
The claimant, worked at the Ipswich branch of a Solicitors. In early December 2007 she was in a relationship with a solicitor at the firm. She was pregnant by him, leading to the birth of their son in September 2008.
By the time of the firm’s Christmas party on 22 December, however, she did not know this.
She got very drunk at the party and people noticed her “flirtatiously kissing” the firm’s IT manager. The couple left the party together and secured a hotel room (paid for by the firm) where, according to the IT Manager, they retired and had “unprotected sex”.
Fast forward a few weeks and the female employee told her employer that she was pregnant. Within an hour, the firm’s HR manager began gossiping and spreading rumours about her pregnancy and about the father of the child.
Predictably, the female employee was very upset and embarrassed by the gossip, and asked if she could transfer to the firm’s other office in Kesgrave. The firm’s managing partners rejected the request.
The female employee decided she could no longer work alongside the HR Manager and filed a formal grievance. She said the firm had allowed the HR Manager to spread rumours about her “without any form of reprimand or disciplinary action”. She also complained that her relocation request was refused seemingly without consideration.
Because of her absence from the workplace, she was not paid for the month of February. In March, she resigned and commenced legal action for constructive unfair dismissal, sex discrimination, discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy, and harassment.
At first instance, the tribunal dismissed her claims for discrimination and harassment. It upheld her claim for constructive unfair dismissal.
On appeal, the office gossip was adjudged to be “unwanted” and “caused the female employee embarrassment and upset” and, therefore, amounted to harassment on the grounds of pregnancy and sex.
So if even a law firm can get it wrong perhaps the guarantee to avoiding any HR issues is not to have a party at all. Reports suggest that many companies no longer have Christmas parties to avoid potential tribunal claims. But this is hardly the festive spirit is it?
So instead of saying “bah! Humbug!” and cancelling everything, follow our tips below to
Remember that a well- managed Christmas party can provide a significant boost to staff morale and loyalty, which for many businesses could be invaluable after what has been a difficult financial year.
If you have any questions about this or any tips you would be happy to share, please email us at email@example.com or call us on 01932 874944