With Christmas parties looming, what should employers know?

After two years of almost being brought to a grinding halt, end-of-year parties are back in full swing. Whilst this is the time for many to enjoy and have fun, it can be a HR nightmare for many employers.

With the vast majority of parties being held outside of the workplace and outside of working hours, many forget that they are viewed as an extension of the workplace.

Employees’ conduct

With a lack of socialising over the last two years, it’s safe to say that some employees may have forgotten how to behave appropriately at such events and importantly, forgotten that their conduct whilst outside of the workplace and work hours is still considered to be within the course of their employment. Any misconduct that takes place at these events will be taken just as seriously as it would whilst at work.

Any poor behaviour or misconduct by employees can have serious implications and consequences for both the employee and employer. Employers are liable for employees’ conduct and should take all reasonable steps beforehand to ensure that any inappropriate behaviour is prevented from happening in the first place as far as possible and if necessary, deal with it appropriately after the event too.

Whilst the vast majority of end of year parties go relatively smoothly, reports of inappropriate behaviour are not uncommon. Alcohol can severely impair our judgment and employers will want to minimise the risk of harassment claims by ensuring that any unwanted advances are deterred from happening altogether.

Not only have employers got to think about the safety and wellbeing of all employees at such events, they also need to be considering the credibility and reputation of the company which may be brought into question through employees’ unruly behaviour.


When planning for the end-of-year party, it is important that all employees are taken into consideration and employers should be alert to the potential discrimination issues that may arise.

In order to be as inclusive as possible, every employee should be invited but no employee should feel pressured to attend events, particularly when it may take place outside of working hours as they may have other commitments to attend to.

Some employees will not want to drink at end of year events and they should not feel as though there is an expectation that they have to drink in order to attend. Likewise, all food and dietary requirements should be met. Employers should also be mindful that some may not celebrate Christmas for religious or other reasons and should consider focusing on celebrating the company’s achievements over the previous year rather than Christmas.

Again to ensure inclusivity, if the party is to be outside of the workplace then a venue which is accessible for all guests should be chosen.

Top tips for employers

  • Remind employees of what is expected of them before the party, referring to the relevant company policies;
  • if allegations are made after the event, then ensure that an investigation takes place into the allegations and ensure that usual disciplinary, grievance and equal opportunities policies are followed and taken seriously;
  • if alcohol is involved, employers may want to be more mindful of employees safety when travelling home after the party and should consider providing transport; and
  • ensure a social media policy is in place and observed, particularly as videos and photographs can easily be shared and these can become damaging to the company.
  • If careful thought is given to planning end of year parties then there is no reason why a it cannot be an enjoyable event and not an after-party headache!

    If you have any employment law queries on the changes, please contact a member of our multi-award winning Employment team on 0333 323 5292.



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