Festive staff parties – what could go wrong?

Lauren Wilson
Lauren Wilson
Solicitor
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Work-related events, including Christmas or other festive parties, can be considered ‘an extension of the workplace’. Whilst these events are intended to be fun and engaging, employers should note that there can be potential legal risks and consequences arising from employees stepping out of line.

Vicarious liability is where a third party is held liable for the actions of someone they are connected to, even though they are not necessarily directly at fault. An employer may be held vicariously liable for the acts of an employee if the employee is acting ‘in the course of employment’, even if the employer has forbidden the conduct.

Looking forward to events that may be being held with staff over the festive period, employees may not feel or act like they are at work, particularly when alcohol is involved. The risk that the employer could be held vicariously liable for any wrongdoing is therefore likely to be increased during such an event.

For example, acts of discrimination committed by an employee at a work social event could result in grievances and, ultimately in an Employment Tribunal claim being raised against both the individual and the employer.

Whilst employers may be prepared to accept some behaviours at social events which it may not normally permit, they could nonetheless investigate and possibly take disciplinary action for misconduct committed during such an event. It is therefore worth reminding staff prior to the event that they must behave responsibly.

If you wish to discuss commentary with staff in advance of the festive season, or if we can assist you in relation to any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team on 0141 331 5150.

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