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Date: 03/12/2015

Christmas parties present a legal minefield for bosses amid the festive fun, one of the county’s leading employment lawyers has warned.

The alert has come from employment expert Kate Jones who says that while no employer wants to be a modern day Scrooge, they have to take steps to protect their business from the reputational damage and legal consequences of workers who take things too far.

Ms Jones, an assistant solicitor with Worcestershire law firm mfg Solicitors, says employers need to remind their workers of the expected standards of behaviour and must not let things slide into a damaging and costly employment tribunal.

Examples of Christmas party problems that end up on the desks of employers include sexual harassment and workers calling in sick because they are hung over.

Statistics about Christmas parties show how 10 per cent of workers admit to having been disciplined or dismissed for their behaviour with around one in six people also expect to turn up to work the next morning in the same clothes they were out in the night before.

Ms Jones said: “No-one wants to be a party pooper but managers have to remember they’re still the boss and the buck stops with them. They need to remind their workers of company policy and what can amount to gross misconduct. That includes anything that they might be tweeting or putting on Facebook. If there’s a connection to the company, it has the potential to cause reputational damage.

“The manager should not discipline anyone at the event itself but should not be afraid to ask anyone behaving unacceptably to leave. The important thing is consistency and we are working in partnership with a number of firms who want to ensure staff stay on the right side of the line.

“Also, if there’s reasonable belief that someone has called in sick because they were drunk or stayed out too late, the manager can and should investigate further. They can review social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter and so on – and if necessary consider disciplinary action.”

Ms Jones and the employment team at mfg Solicitors have created a ‘Christmas Party Guide and Social Conduct Policy’ which includes a variety of dos and don’ts for employers ahead of the festive season. This includes advice about using social media sites.

For further information or advice businesses can contact Ms Jones through kate.jones@mfgsolicitors.com