Despite rumours of budget cuts and party cancellations, an entirely unscientific poll of my family, clients and friends revealed that most people attended some sort of work event over the festive season. For many this is a time to let loose and enjoy the rewards of working so hard throughout the year, sometimes a little too much.
In the eyes of employment tribunals, work parties count as work places. This means that when Pamela got overexcited and spent all night trying to make a move on Jeff (who was less than pleased) she could now face a claim of sexual harassment. And if Jeff’s cold attitude towards Paul was because Paul brought his friend Ned which made Jeff think that Paul was gay, there’s a perceived discrimination claim in the making.
Far be it from me to be the no fun police –most employees work hard for their employers and the annual bash is a good way to say thank you and encourage some team bonding. And thankfully, most spats are sorted out when people have calmed down and their cooler (though possibly morning after aching) heads have prevailed. But as an employer, it is important to be aware that any work do issues need to be dealt with speedily, sensitively and appropriately – with proper investigation and disciplinary action if necessary. It’s no longer a case of ‘what happens at the party stays at the party’.