On the 8th day of Christmas my employee said to me…. “I didn’t enjoy the Christmas party as one of my colleagues kept harassing me.”
With the ever increasing demands of work the Christmas party is a great way to say thank you to staff. Most employees, when entering into the party spirit, will remember that there is a need to convey some semblance of good behaviour; sometimes, however a small number of staff are forgetful of this and lose all sense of propriety. In most instances their behaviour will be mildly amusing or annoying but in some cases it can become offensive and distressing.
Regardless of whether the party is away from the workplace and/or not in work time, employment law will still apply. This means employees who behave inappropriately towards their colleagues can be held accountable for their behaviour. Additionally, employers can be held responsible for the conduct of an employee towards a colleague where bullying, harassment and discrimination is involved.
It is therefore important to take seriously complaints of this type and not treat them any differently because the behaviour complained of occurred at a social event. Ignoring such a complaint could lead to a costly employment tribunal claim and reputational damage. Key considerations for an employer wishing to minimise these risks include:
- Ensuring the complaint is dealt with quickly and impartially under the grievance procedure – the procedure should include the usual stages such as an investigation, meetings and an appeal.
- Taking disciplinary action if the complaint is upheld.
However, proactive employers can also take preventative steps to minimise the risk of complaints in the first place, such steps can include:
- Implementing and communicating an equality and harassment policy.
- Providing equal opportunities training.
- Dealing with complaints fairly and effectively.
Implementation of these simple steps should enable everyone to focus on the true purpose of the event and have fun at this time of year.
For more details about the issues in this article please contact:
+44 (0) 808 172 93 22
This update is for general guidance only and does not constitute definitive advice.