Office Christmas Party Most Dangerous Time Of Year
This should be the time of year when you embrace your work colleagues in a mood of seasonal goodwill, imbibe in good-natured convivial jollity, tell the boss how much you truly appreciate their efforts, thank junior staff for their wonderful and tireless assistance, and then finally gently fade into the night with grateful worshipful colleagues waving you farewell and saying to each other how wonderful you really are.
Sure, that’s the fantasy of how the annual Christmas Party should unfold. Sadly all too often the reality is very different – drunken embarrassments, regretted romantic entanglements, forgettable fumblings, embarrassing karaoke performances and saying things to colleagues and bosses you later wish you hadn’t.
Remember, and this is vital, the same rules that apply to everyday behavior in the workplace also apply at work functions, including Christmas parties – even if they take place outside the office and outside work hours.
All those workplace no-nos such as sexual harassment, bullying, abuse, discrimination, humiliation, unwelcome touching or unsubtle proposals, even suggestive comments and off-colour jokes also apply at the office Christmas party.
Those awkward and embarrassing office awards, stupid presents, the speech that goes too far and ridicules or denigrates fellow workers, asking personal questions that are way too personal….any of these could land you in hot water.
Workplace laws offer no excuse for breaking the rules while drunk at an office party. Courts and Tribunals are littered with cases of Christmas Party excess ending with sackings and employers paying hefty compensation payments.
One notable recent case was the boss who gave his young female assistant lingerie and purple fluffy handcuffs as a present. Even though they’d had an earlier dalliance, the boss lost.
A court ruled sexual shenanigans at a hotel after a Christmas party were still technically “at work”, ending in a justified sacking.
If you find yourself in trouble or you are the victim of misbehavior at an office party it would be wise to seek advice from a lawyer specialising in employment law.
Employers do have a duty of care at work functions including Christmas parties. They should look after vulnerable staff and keep the unruly under control. Make sure the venue is safe. Help people home with a hired vehicle or taxi vouchers.
To make sure everyone knows the ground rules issue a gentle reminder to let all staff know what sorts of behavior are not acceptable.
Be festive not foolish. Employers – plan ahead and take precautions.