Thursday, 17 December 2015
The Small Firms Association has issued practical advice to all small businesses hosting staff Christmas parties. SFA Director, Patricia Callan commented "Staff parties can show our employees some due appreciation at the end of a busy year. We all understand the benefits of a social outing on team building too. However, these social events also have the potential to provide a context for inappropriate behaviour that could have serious repercussions."
Callan stated ''It is important to remember, that when an employer hosts a staff party, their duty of care to protect their employees extends as if they were at work. The employer is fully responsible and held liable for incidents that happen at Christmas parties, even if the party is off-site and out of hours. Employers remain responsible for the well being, protection and behaviour of employees during such events.''
Callan noted that the SFA has already received many calls from members dealing with bullying, harassment and sexual harassment grievances, as well as a number conflict situations involving employees following staff parties this year. A recent SFA survey showed that compliance with having anti bullying/harassment policies in place is high, with 89% of SFA members having correct procedures. "However, our advice is to re-issue this policy noting its application to social and out of hours events in advance of the staff party. Those businesses who do not have a policy in place are leaving themselves completely exposed to claims, with a potential two years pay as compensation payable on harassment claims under the Employment Equality Acts and damages in civil cases", continued Callan.
Callan concluded “We recommend managing the alcohol intake of your staff with drink vouchers or a limited bar tab, rather than offering an unrestricted free bar. It is also important to remind employees in a caring manor, that the event is an extension of the workplace and that while we all want to have some fun, there is a line that we don't want to cross.''