How not to be­have at the of­fice Christ­mas party

The morn­ing af­ter the night be­fore can bring more than just a headache, so we have five good rea­sons to curb be­hav­iour dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - By niall mcmul­lan, Em­ploy­ment part­ner Niall Mcmul­lan is a part­ner in Wor­thing­tons Com­mer­cial So­lic­i­tors, Belfast, who reg­u­larly ad­vises or­gan­i­sa­tions and em­ploy­ers on em­ploy­ment law is­sues such as Na­tional Min­i­mum Wage and the Work­ing Time Reg­u­la­tions. He

You may be more con­cerned about whether the dress code should be ‘Christ­mas jumper’, or what time the bar closes. How­ever, the af­ter­math of the of­fice Christ­mas party can have a se­ri­ous and last­ing im­pact.

Be­low are some in­ter­est­ing le­gal cases that pro­vide help­ful hints on how not to act dur­ing the fes­tive pe­riod: 1. So­cial events con­nected with work can be an ex­ten­sion of the work­place. The Chief Con­sta­ble of the Po­lice in Lin­colnshire was held vi­car­i­ously li­able for the ac­tions of its em­ployee, a male of­fi­cer, who sex­u­ally ha­rassed a fe­male col­league whilst at the pub. The Em­ploy­ment Ap­peal Tri­bunal in The Chief Con­sta­ble of Lin­colnshire –v– Stubbs [1999] ICR 547 up­held the orig­i­nal Em­ploy­ment Tri­bunal’s views that “at­tend­ing a pub­lic house for re­lax­ation im­me­di­ately af­ter the end of the work­ing day is, in our view, merely an ex­ten­sion of em­ploy­ment...” Les­son: Be­have at the Christ­mas party as you would at work. 2. Never mind the Christ­mas party, walk­ing home from it is still an ex­ten­sion of the work­place. In Gim­son –v– Dis­play by De­sign Ltd ET/1900336/2012 Mr Gim­son punched a col­league in the face while walk­ing home from the Christ­mas party.

This was in­ves­ti­gated by the re­spon­dent, and Mr Gim­son was sub­se­quently dis­missed for gross mis­con­duct.

His claim for un­fair dis­missal was dis­missed by the tri­bunal, who found that the in­ci­dent was suf­fi­ciently closely re­lated to work, as he would not have been walk­ing home with his col­league save for the party. Les­son: Al­co­hol is no ex­cuse for mis­be­haviour, even at the end of the night. 3. ‘Mates hav­ing a laugh’ can war­rant dis­missal, in Bhara –v– Ikea Ltd ET/1311146/10 Mr Bhara whilst out for a smoke break at his of­fice party warned his col­league not to drink too much as he was work­ing the next day.

His col­league did not take too kindly to this re­minder, and a ‘scuf­fle’ en­sued. Fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in which both par­ties played down the event Mr Bhara was dis­missed.

The tri­bunal held that whilst the re­spon­dent was not obliged to dis­miss Mr Bhara, fight­ing with a col­league is “a mat­ter of the ut­most se­ri­ous­ness” even if there were “no last­ing hard feel­ings”. Les­son: Whilst out at the of­fice Christ­mas party you are rep­re­sent­ing your em­ployer, al­ways be on best be­hav­iour. 4. Be care­ful of prom­ises made. In Judge –v– Crown Leisure Ltd [2005] IRLR 823 (CA) Mr Judge was promised by a di­rec­tor of the re­spon­dent at their work Christ­mas party that they in­tended to align his salary in due course with that of a new em­ployee who was on con­sid­er­ably more.

When Mr Judge did not achieve par­ity within two years he re­signed and claimed con­struc­tive dis­missal. His claim was dis­missed as it was found the di­rec­tor was merely pro­vid­ing “words of com­fort” and were too vague to amount to a con­trac­tual in­ten­tion.

How­ever, it is clear from the judg­ment that em­ploy­ers must be mind­ful of such words, as these could be con­trac­tu­ally bind­ing. Les­son: Do not make prom­ises about pay rises or pro­mo­tions at the Christ­mas party. 5. Af­ter­math of the Christ­mas party: Fol­low­ing what the tri­bunal cat­e­gorised as ‘con­trib­u­tory con­duct’ with a male col­league at the of­fice Christ­mas party in Nixon –v– Ross Coates So­lic­i­tors [2010] EQ.LR 284 (EAT) Ms. Nixon fell preg­nant, and ru­mours about her preg­nancy, and the pos­si­ble pa­ter­nity of her child, abounded, al­legedly spread by the HR man­ager.

Fol­low­ing a re­fused re­quest to move of­fice, and fail­ure to in­ves­ti­gate her griev­ance, she re­signed claim­ing con­struc­tive dis­missal, and dis­crim­i­na­tion on the grounds of her gen­der/preg­nancy. Her claim for sex dis­crim­i­na­tion was up­held on ap­peal. Les­son: Aside from be­hav­ing ap­pro­pri­ately at the Christ­mas party, beware of the in­evitable gos­sip which en­sues.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.