An employee who had one too many drinks harasses one of their co-workers. Another employee, an enthusiastic dancer, slips and hits their head on the corner of a table, which results in a concussion. Two other employees, who don’t particularly like each other, get into a fight. While this is not behaviour that is expected or sought by employers when organizing the traditional company Christmas party, these scenarios are definitely within the realm of possibility.
The Christmas Party is undoubtedly the perfect opportunity to celebrate your corporate success, to express your gratitude towards your employees, and to thank them for their commitment and their efforts during the year. But just because it's time for the festivities does not mean you don't have responsibilities as well. Here are some tips to avoid regret and problems ...
Accidents that occur during the preparation or holding of a social event are not covered unless it is an event taking place at the workplace, during regular working hours or if the employees were paid. An employee voluntarily chooses to participate in the activity organized by his employer. The employee then assumes the risks that may arise.
Sexual and psychological harassment is prohibited at all times, including social activities, whether or not they take place on work premises during or outside of work hours. In such a situation, the company must therefore apply it’s harassment policy.
Violence is never an acceptable behaviour, let alone in the workplace. This principle also applies to social activities organized by the employer. Employees must be fully aware that they remain subject to their employee status even in a festive context. During this time, they may incur disciplinary action for their behaviour and even face criminal charges in the future. In this case, it would be entirely justified for the employer to take appropriate action against the protagonists.
It would be prudent for the employer to provide their employees with alternatives to driving and even find ways to limit alcohol consumption. Every employer shall ensure some control over their employees so that they do not present a danger to themselves and others.
The employer has every interest in preventing inappropriate behaviour, harassment, accidents, fighting and drunk driving, rather than dealing with the inconvenience thereafter:
Remind employees of company policies, including workplace harassment and violence, as well as expected behaviours.
Hold the event in a public place and invite spouses to avoid overflow.
Adopt measures in order to prevent your employees from driving while intoxicated. Plan a safe ride service, promote red nose, or pay for the taxi. Inform employees in advance and during the activity of the measures in place. They'll be more inclined to use them and can plan accordingly.
Make the necessary arrangements to limit the intake of alcohol: avoid open bars, close the bar a few hours before the end of the event, or set up a voucher system for alcoholic drinks.
Do not tolerate any form of violence and do not hesitate to apply disciplinary measures.
Appoint leaders to make sure everything goes well during the event.
Remember that the employer must at all times fulfill their obligation to protect the health, safety and integrity of their employees. The employer must therefore take the necessary measures to prevent or avoid various untoward events. The employee, in turn, remains subject to the rules and policies in force at the company where they work, even if the event is held outside the usual place of business. It should also be noted that the employee may be held liable for civil and criminal liability; for example, if an employee drives while intoxicated.