A court of appeal in France gives legal backing to party pooping. Meanwhile, in the UK, people are slowly waking up to the realisation they can take some time off later this month.
With December parties being blighted by rail strikes, tortuously freezing weather, and the fact that many employees have forgotten where the office actually is, it’s not been a vintage year for Christmas celebrations.
When one adds to these woes the growing awareness that a large sway of the working population is not fond of over-indulging in booze terms, if they drink alcohol at all, firms might be excused a certain wariness about organising anything.
Now, a judge has come to their rescue: firms can now claim that encouraging people to attend a work party could lead to legal action against them so there won’t be a fling this year. Unfortunately for these businesses, the legal ruling was made in France, a country that has never truly had a legal stranglehold on UK activities, whatever Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson may claim.
Lawyers at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner – a global law firm not a 1970s supergroup – have written in a blog that UK employers should take note of the ruling, made in November. They write: “Employees do have the right not to party, and it is ill-advised to go any further than encouragement.”
Enter Mr T
The French case ended with judge ruling that an employer could not dismiss an employee – called in this case “Mr T” – for refusing to attend after-work drinks and team-building activities. (It’s important to point out at this stage that the A-Team were not behind the boozy activities … that was a different Mr T.)
“The judgment made national headlines as an employee exercising ‘the right to be boring’,” write BCLP lawyers David von Hagan and Adam Lambert.
Recent news about professional services firms sending chaperones along to post-work drinks, Lloyds underwriters being fined for appalling behaviour and injuries suffered by managers as a result of drinking games add to the weight of evidence that employers can’t afford to ignore the risks.
A lighthearted take on HR
Mr T’s objection to the out of office activities centred on the consumption of alcohol and excessive behaviour, factors that some might not associate with France as a nation. If you subscribed to national stereotyping you might be disappointed to discover that a work night out in Paris does not necessarily feature a glass of a refined Chablis, intelligent conversation and some fine dining, and instead involves behaviour more associated with the patch of pavement outside your local London suburb high street takeaway on a Saturday night. But then again, who would have thought PwC employees needed someone to keep an eye on them when they go out?
Interestingly, von Hagan and Lambert write that although “an employee can be ‘boring’ about nights out down the pub, or even the Christmas party, matters become more difficult when it is an off-site department retreat to discuss business development, or lunch with a new joiner.” And this raises the question of whether team-building activities of any kind are worth the hassle. They cite a recent VitalBriefing HR survey that showed only 14% of employees felt that team-building activities enhanced relationships with colleagues, and fewer than a fifth of employees felt out of office bonding improved working relationships.
But the big question must be: if France were to win the World Cup this Sunday, would Mr T join in some uninhibited and excessive behaviour?
Frank Recruitment Group has contacted Personnel Today with the exciting news that this Christmas and New Year we can all take 16 days off while using just seven days of annual leave. Do the math, right?
Frank says that “Brits” (that’s us), can book off the remainder of the week following Christmas Day (Monday 25 December) and Boxing Day (Tuesday 26 December), as well as the Tuesday to Friday following New Year (Monday 1 January) for 16 days’ work-free using just seven days of annual leave. In Scotland, this could be six days as Tuesday 2 January is a public holiday there.
This is described as an annual leave “hack”, suggesting that the ruse is somehow ahead of the curve. Personnel Today, using a similar methodology, can propose a further hack. You can take two days off a week without using any annual holiday at all. All you have to do is stop working on Saturday and Sunday. Even better, if there’s one of our rare bank holidays on the Monday you only have to work for four days in the week, without using any annual holiday. Clever, eh?