Christmas time, mistletoe and wine…

With Christmas around the corner the office Christmas party season has begun in earnest. Unfortunately, an abundance of festive cheer mixed with the odd Jägerbomb very often results in consequences that last well beyond the next day’s hangover.

The New Year often presents employment lawyers with a variety of Christmas party issues that need to be resolved. Indeed, Christmas-party-specific case law of years gone by can provide hours of cringe-worthy reading.  Whether your Christmas party is hosted in your office boardroom or involves traipsing round some of Belfast’s finest establishments, arm in arm with your co-worker, both employers and employees would be well advised to consider Christmas parties as an extension of the workplace.

Whilst alcohol is very often the main trigger for shenanigans, alcohol does not provide you or your employees with an excuse under the law.

Employers should remember the following as they reach for the first glass of Prosecco:-

  1. At the Christmas party you continue to have a duty of care towards your employees. Plying your employees with copious amounts of gin and ginger may be well received but you must balance this with exercising your duty of care. If issues arise as a result of alcohol (as they so often do!) you could be held liable.
  2. Try to avoid conducting appraisals after 6 double vodka and cokes. Providing your employees with a performance review whilst propping up a bar, making promises that can’t be kept can result in legal action when, come January, the promotion or pay rise that was offered doesn’t materialise.
  3. Beware of banter (and overly familiar displays of affection) – if you wouldn’t say it to your colleague whilst sitting at your desk or hanging around the photocopier…best not say it at all. As for surprising your employees (male or female) by whipping out the mistletoe on the dancefloor, consider whether or not this may be a welcome surprise for your employee who may not be quite as enthused. I have been at many a Christmas party (not in Johnsons of course) where many words and actions, are regretted. In an employment law context this can result in disciplinary proceedings, grievances, claims of discrimination, bullying or harassment – all of which, as an employer, you will want to avoid!

Notwithstanding the above, even lawyers accept that people need to have fun (occasionally) but as Jerry Springer once said, “take care of yourself, and each other” [and your employees].

If you would like to know more about how to protect your business and employees you can contact Rhys Jones, Partner, on 02890240183 or

Dec, 06, 2018