I don’t want to sound like scrooge but you as employers do have responsibilities. There are many horror stories about office parties and their implications for employers, but you should not be afraid of them - providing you take some simple steps beforehand.
Hopefully anyone with responsibility for HR will know the steps they need to take but for the sake of completeness, I have set out some of the basics below:
- Even if your office function is off site and out of working hours, as employers you may still be liable for actions and negligence by your employees whilst at an office function.
- Without wanting to be a killjoy, you need to remind your employees (ideally in writing) that they are still in 'work mode' whilst at the party and any incidents will be dealt with using your standard disciplinary procedures
- You should emphasise that any incidents of harassment, violence or excessive drunken behaviour will not be tolerated and the fact that employees may have had something to drink will not be accepted as an excuse.
- You need to remind employees that they should not drink and drive - good advice at any time, but particularly if you are supplying alcohol. You may want to consider laying on transport.
- You should also make it clear that if your employees are bringing partners they will also be expected to behave in an appropriate manner.
- After the party if any of your employees makes a complaint about the behaviour of another employee after the party, you should investigate it in a formal and thorough manner, as you would if it had occurred at work. It should be borne in mind that failure to deal effectively with a complaint of harassment could lead to a claim of sex or race discrimination or even constructive dismissal.
So without dampening everyone's spirits, you just need to ensure that employees and their guests are aware of the limits before the event. Many firms will be using an office function as a 'thank you' to staff who have worked hard through what for may have been a difficult year, and if this is the case, a word of thanks would also not be out of place.
Enjoy your Christmas party!