Law firm Gardner Leader with offices based in Newbury and Thatcham have released advice to ensure bosses and employees do not fall foul of disciplinary action ahead of the festive break.
Employment law specialist Julie Taylor said: \"It is important to remember that employers have duty of care for all their staff, whether it is at their desk or during Christmas celebrations, which are likely to be considered work-related.
\"Setting out what is acceptable behaviour before the event is very important, together with highlighting that any rule-breaking will be viewed as misconduct to be dealt with through the companies' disciplinary procedures.\"
Unwanted advances by colleagues could lead to an employment tribunal claim and the employer can be held liable for failing to provide adequate protection for the employee targeted. This is another area that should be covered by a robust policy and clear attitude at management level to underline what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
Managing diversity in the workplace is also an important consideration when dealing with a Christian festival and a workforce that may have different cultural or religious beliefs and employees should not be pressurised to attend Christmas-related events.
If the party is in the office, then limiting the amount of alcohol can be a good idea and locking up the stationery cupboard and disconnecting the photocopiers.
Employers should also pay attention to the generous bottles of wine or bubbly changing hands between customers and suppliers. The obligations under the Bribery Act means good policies are essential and employers should remind all staff to record any gifts, whatever the value, in a hospitality and gift register.
Employees should be made aware of the absence policy, and be reminded that abuse of the system will result in disciplinary action. All employers have to assume absence is genuine, but employees who know that return to work interviews will be held and that absence management procedures will be pursued, are much less likely to phone in sick after that late night.