Yo! Ho! Ho!  
 
The festive season is well and truly upon us and with that comes all the usual meet-ups, hang-outs as well as the annual office party. 
 
It is a chance to let our hair down and socialise with colleagues, and even get to know people that perhaps we don’t always get the opportunity to talk to. 
 
However, it can also cause issues for HR professionals. As HR tries to move away from too many policies and procedures and telling adults how to behave, it can be quite a balancing act ensuring that we do that AND protect our colleagues, whilst trying to minimise risk to the organisation. 
 
There is such a thing as ‘vicarious-liability’ in employment law which means that employers are liable for acts of discrimination including sexual and other types of harassment committed by their staff at work-related events such as Christmas parties. This is because these parties take place “in the course of employment’, in essence, BUT for that office party, this thing would not have happened. 
 
Add to that the recent scandals plus the rise of the #Metoo movement, and you can see why this can be dangerous territory. 
 
I don’t wish to put a dampener on your festivities (I love all things Chrimbo) but these nuggets will help everyone to have a good time! 
 
Ensure that you have robust policies in place – a Code of Conduct can cover expectations around the accepted standards of behaviour at work (including social events). Make it clear that disciplinary action will be taken in the event of non-compliance which could lead to dismissal. 
Check that you have a Dignity at Work/Anti-Sexual Harassment or Safeguarding policy which demonstrates a Zero-tolerance approach to any such behaviour. 
Send a notice in advance of events reminding people of expected conduct. Something along the lines of “A reminder that the Firm’s disciplinary policy applies at the event” (lol this sounds like Scrooge) but at least you will be protecting yourself from the accusation that you did nothing to protect staff. 
 
Finally, have a well-deserved good time and a glass of Prosecco for me!  
 
Merry Christmas! 
 
PS. Remember to sign up for our updates and do get in touch if you need help and assistance with all things HR. 
 
 
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