Christmas party - are you liable if things go Pete Tong?

Christmas party - are you liable if things go Pete Tong?

  • Date: Thursday 21st November 2019
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Increasingly, our members are asking questions about their levels of liability when it comes to Christmas parties.

As much as we all like to let our hair down, many employers have in the past been faced with uncomfortable conversations, bills or even lawsuits on the morning after the night before: 

Harassment or unwanted behaviour

  • Sexual advances displayed after a few too many drinks are commonplace and usually don’t result in any serious fall-outs. However, as an employer you must be aware that any complaints lodged against team members who have taken it too far must be taken seriously. There have been several tribunal cases giving guidance that employers should and must consider disciplinary action against those crossing the line. Make sure you investigate any grievances thoroughly and in a timely fashion and also police (as far as possible) behaviours on the night.


  • While aggravated behaviour displayed outside of working hours, during unarranged events (i.e. colleagues deciding to go to the pub after work) is not your responsibility, things become a little more complicated at staff events. Personal injury claims and criminal charged would be brought against the individual. However, if the assailant is in a position of trust in your organisation (i.e. business owner or director), then your organisation can also be held liable. Ensure that all senior managers and directors are aware of the fact that their actions can have a direct impact on the organisation at all times.

Reputational impact

  • Imagine the scene: you are hiring hotel facilities for your party and at the end of the night, some individuals display unruly behaviour that causes them to be evicted from the premises. Clearly not ideal, considering your name is on the door! Yes, employees can be disciplined for acts like this. However, the burden of proof that there has or could have been a reputational impact lies with the employer. It is not enough to just say that the employee caused embarrassment. 

Drink driving

  • You have a duty of care to ensure that your employees are safe and well. This includes their safety at or after an organised party. If you are aware that one of your team members has consumed alcohol or drugs and is about to drive home, you should approach them and attempt to persuade them to find a different mode of transport. You are legally not allowed to take their keys off them or physically restrain them. However, you should contact the police, if the individual refuses to comply.

Source: Manuela Grossmann

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