Work Christmas parties and the law banner


Work Christmas parties and the law

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Steven Judge is a Partner and head of the employment team at Stephen Rimmer. You can contact him on 01323 434416 or

Work Christmas parties are a staple on the corporate calendar, but it is always important to remember that even though it is a Christmas party, it is also a work event. As an employer, it is your job to ensure the rules are followed. Not only will this protect your employees from damaging their reputation, but it can save you the misfortune of having your business's reputation damaged or having to discipline an employee.

Ensuring the event is successful

Keeping the work night on the right track from the beginning is always the best option, and it means when the night comes around, you too get a chance to enjoy the party. From the outset, you and your employees must be aware that the event is still considered ‘work’ in the eyes of the law, even if it is off the usual work premises.

For you as an employer, this means your responsibilities are still standing; you are still liable for employee behaviour and have to handle all complaints in line with the company procedures in place.

Hosting in the office

If you decide to host the party within the office, you remain liable, as mentioned above. Hosting the event on company property runs the additional risk of damage being caused to your property, which is more than likely to result in an extra maintenance bill for you.

Below are some things to consider before you host a Christmas party on your business premise:

  • Has a risk assessment relevant to the event been carried out? This would offer you protection against a negligence claim if the worst was to happen.
  • Is your insurance up to date for both the building and individuals? Work Christmas parties can result in damage to property or personal injury cases, which the employer can be liable for.
  • If providing alcohol, particularly a free bar, are there measures in place to prevent it from being abused, such as free drink tokens? Are there non-alcoholic drinks being provided?

So, how can you make the party successful?

Being prepared and knowing what you want to do beforehand is crucial.

  • Be inclusive. There is a possibility that not all your staff celebrate Christmas. Usually, the event is more of a general celebration that just happens at the same time of year, and even though it is highly unlikely a Christmas party would lead to an employment discrimination case, it is an important point to consider.
  • If you want to provide alcohol, have a plan in place for food and non-alcoholic drinks to tackle the effects of the drink.
  • Have a plan for after the party, are there safe options for employees to get home? An easy way to tackle this is to end the event before public transport closing for the night.
  • Before the party, ensure all employees are aware of the company policy. This can be a quick email which makes sure everyone is aware that all these policies are applicable off-site, too – after all, it is still a work event.

Overall, pre-planning and ensuring your employees are all on the same page and act responsibly should result in a joyful event, which is always good to have in the busy Christmas season.

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