Employers at risk through lack of Christmas party policy

Two-thirds of employers do not have a policy in place setting out the standard of acceptable employee behaviour at their work Christmas party, according to the latest XpertHR research.

This failure to put in place a Christmas party policy is despite the fact that employers may be held indirectly liable for harm caused to other employees or third parties by the negligent acts of their employees, including at events outside normal working hours.

The XpertHR Benchmarking survey of Christmas and New Year working arrangements – conducted in October 2010 – is based on responses from 111 organisations. The survey finds that a majority of organisations are failing to put in place behaviour policies for seasonal celebrations and that still more employers are not acting in accordance with legislation to prevent religious discrimination.

Although the majority of work Christmas celebrations pass without incident, 7% of employers said that problems did arise at their last work Christmas party or meal, indicating a need for a policy on behaviour.

In one case, employees had designed an awards ceremony at which an employee took offence at the award for which he had been nominated. The individual raised an informal grievance and the situation was resolved informally. Most other examples centred on violent and aggressive behaviour as a result of excessive alcohol.

Three organisations had to use a formal disciplinary proceeding to deal with the issues that arose. The full benchmarking survey data is available on XpertHR.

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