Beware the festive party

Employers and employees should try to avoid the problems which can arise at staff Christmas parties.

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We would not wish to dampen festive cheer but employers and employees should try to avoid the problems which can arise at staff Christmas parties.

Vicarious liability is a situation where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another person. In a workplace context, an employer can be liable for the acts or omissions of its employees if it can be shown that the actions took place in the course of their employment.

We have reported in previous newsletters on a sad case which took place at a Christmas party. A company held a Christmas party at a local golf club. The MD suggested moving on to an adjacent hotel for more drinks at around midnight. At around 3am, during an argument over one of the MDs business decisions, the MD punched an employee twice resulting in a very severe brain injury. The court held that the company was vicariously liable for the actions of the MD. The argument related to the MDs managerial responsibility and he asserted his authority as MD. The point is that the relationship of MD and staff was still present at the time of the assault.

It is hoped that such a tragic situation will not arise from a festive party but employers are also reminded of the recent case in which a partner of a high-profile law firm was found to have acted without integrity when he engaged in sexual activity with a junior female colleague following a work-related social event.

Employers should carefully consider their policies in relation to appropriate conduct at work-related parties, which should also be properly communicated to employees. It may also be worth ensuring that some members of staff remain sober and vigilant throughout such events to try to avoid unfortunate situations arising in the first place.

To discuss this or any other employment related matter, contact us.

Members: Simon Shaw, Elizabeth Rimell and Janice Leyland.
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