Christmas party coming up?

  • Étude de marché 7 décembre 2023 7 décembre 2023
  • Royaume-Uni et Europe

  • Emploi, pensions et immigration

Now’s the time to remind staff of what’s acceptable and not (if you haven’t already).

Most employees are becoming increasingly familiar with the work email circulated each year in the run up to the much-loved Christmas party, reminding them to act appropriately, not drink too much, and avoid posting inappropriate pictures on social media.

While those emails may be met with some laughs, some groans, and some eye rolls, the continued annual spike of incidents at Christmas or festive work events is a reminder that these announcements remain as important – and necessary – as ever.  Indeed, employers need to make sure that the message is getting through. 

Christmas parties and work-related events are of course accepted as being extensions of the “workplace” which means employers will be “legally” liable for any inappropriate conduct at those events, unless they can show that they have taken all reasonable steps to stop that conduct from occurring.  Earlier this year, an employer was found liable for one of its employees sexually harassing a colleague at a Christmas party; with the tribunal finding that the employer had failed to put in place any guidelines or instructions for standards of behaviour, or the consumption of alcohol, for employees.  

The legal side of things aside (and that of course includes employers wanting to be able to provide their staff with a safe environment in which to celebrate), there is the regulatory and reputational side of things to consider too.

For those regulated by the FCA and PRA, recently published consultation papers on diversity and inclusion highlight not only the increased focus of regulators on non-financial misconduct, but the increased recognition that inappropriate behaviour such as harassment directly undermines diversity and inclusion.  This focus is matched (at least) by the SRA (for solicitors’ firms), the ICAEW (for accountancy firms), and other regulators.

Then of course there is the reputational side of things – in relation to internal culture, and externally – and that is reputation with an organisation’s own employees, potential employees (in a competitive market), and customers and clients.

With this in mind, employers should:

  1. Remind staff that they take harassment and bullying seriously and that inappropriate behaviour will be acted on and dealt with; 
  2. Remind staff of their regulatory obligations where these apply – the FCA and Lloyd's have already made clear that non-financial misconduct may be a breach of the Conduct Rules, while the SRA has issued guidance on how it will deal with “sexual misconduct”;  
  3. Encourage staff to be mindful of their alcohol consumption and remind them that being under the influence of alcohol will not be considered a mitigating factor;  
  4. Ensure a select number of senior staff are appointed as supervisors of any festive activities; 
  5. Remind staff to stay safe and avoid drinking and driving; 
  6. Ensure festive events are inclusive and appropriately-themed;
  7. Remind staff that they are expected to act appropriately at all social engagements, including social events hosted by clients and other business contacts, and that misconduct at those engagements will also be taken seriously and dealt with under their disciplinary policy;
  8. Upon being made aware of a complaint, act promptly – while many of us will be taking some time off during the holiday season, employers shouldn’t sit on a complaint over the holiday period and should make sure they have staff available to support complainants and at the very least start the ball rolling on any investigation that needs to be carried out. 

Whilst there will be those who question the need for this messaging, and suggest that it goes too far, there is no question that employers need to turn their mind to it, and communicate it in a way which is appropriate for them and their staff, to seek to avoid any issues occurring. Ultimately the key message is simple: don’t act inappropriately and treat those around you with respect. A little goes a long way in making the festive season an inclusive, safe, and happy period for everyone. 


Auteurs supplémentaires:

Shadia El Dardiry

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