Midlands law firm MFG Solicitors recently highlighted the potential legal minefield that Christmas parties can pose for employers. Solicitor at the firm, Kate Jones, provided some fantastic advise for employers as well as highlighting research that shows the worrying statistics for how many employees can find themselves amidst disciplinary procedures during the festive season. In this interview, we speak with Kate Jones to gain some further insight into her invaluable management tips.
You pointed out that research shows 10% of workers admit to having been disciplined or dismissed for their behaviour at Christmas parties. Were you surprised that this figure was this high?
Not really, we see an increase at this time of year in queries and new instructions received from employers having to deal with the aftermath of Christmas parties. Unfortunately however, the buck stops with employers. They have the headache afterwards and the substantial management time of dealing with grievances raised and the commencement of investigations which could in turn potentially lead to disciplinary action.
Do you think the workplace Christmas party has become an increasingly significant and hyped event for employees over time? If so, do you think this trend will continue?
Yes, with the recession and various pay freezes that have affected the employment relationship. For some businesses the Christmas party is the only reward that employees receive for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Employers of course want their employees to have a good time but they need to balance that with protecting their business.
Social media now of course provides a further area for potential misconduct related to workplace Christmas parties. What are some of things here that employers need to look out for?
There has been a huge shift in usage. Even a few years ago, this is not something that an employer would have even had to think about.
Employers need to ensure that there is a social media policy in place which provides guidelines regarding what is considered to be acceptable in relation to work events, but also personal exchanges on social media accounts about events at the workplace.
Employers should also monitor employees’ social media accounts throughout the year. However, if you wish to monitor accounts it is important to ensure that this is done consistently across the workforce as a whole.
How would you recommend employers deal with misconduct if it does occur at their workplace Christmas festivities?
Speak to anyone at the event who reports any examples of unacceptable behaviour or conduct. It is important to explain that it is appropriate to address the complaint properly after the event and that the employer will have a more detailed conversation with them at a later date. Secondly, if an employee’s behaviour is unacceptable then it is best to send them home. Never discipline the employee at the event. It is also important to take statements as soon as possible after the event so events are fresh in the witness’s mind.
Employees calling in sick due to hangovers, or other reasons, are also a major issues at this time of year. What are some of the best ways that employers can manage this?
- Prepare and plan. Ensure that there are relevant policies in place prior to the event.
- Send an email or memo to all employees prior to the event reminding them of the expected standards of behaviour both during and after the event.
- Was the employee drunk at the event?
- Investigate further.
- Monitor social media account to see if any insight into absence.
- Consider disciplinary action.
- Ensure consistency
Tell us more about your Christmas Party Guide and Social Conduct Policy
This is a guide that we are able to supply to employers to assist them at this difficult time year. It is a checklist to assist them in planning for Christmas and also how to best react to certain situations afterwards. Social Conduct Policy is a policy that can be implemented more general regarding standards of behaviour all year round.
For more information on MFG Solicitors please visit www.mfgsolicitors.com