How to avoid Christmas Party problems

A Christmas party can often boost morale, increase employee satisfaction and promote team building.
Preparation is key to a successful Christmas party!


Think twice about mistletoe at your Christmas party, whilst it may appear to be innocent fun, mistletoe may increase the risk of sexual harassment claims. This applies even if your Christmas party is held outside working hours and not in the office. The party is still a work event meaning employers are likely to be vicariously liable for acts of their employees (particularly if you organised and funded the event) unless you take reasonable steps to prevent those acts occurring. If a complaint is made during or after the Christmas party, you should follow your usual disciplinary policy and investigate the complaint thoroughly.

Employers owe their employees a duty to take reasonable of care towards their health and safety, therefore if you ask employees to decorate the office you need to provide them with the appropriate equipment to do so, for example providing step ladders in order to ensure employees do not use swivel chairs to stand on. On a similar note if you hold the Christmas party in the office, dancing on desks or the like could cause damage not only to the employee but to the employer’s property. Make it clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated or that certain parts of the office are out of bounds during the party.


Employees need to be aware that the Company policies on harassment and discrimination continue to apply when socialising with work colleagues. Ensure employees know the consequences of breaching such policies. The employer continues to be liable for the acts of their employees when socialising with each other. Employers are also responsible for harassment by third parties. Third parties at a Christmas party could includ entertainers and bar staff.


Remember their will be employees who do not drink alcohol, perhaps for religious reasons or otherwise. Therefore ensure you supply plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Also if there will be any employees attending the Christmas party who will be under the age of 18, ensure you keep an eye out to make sure they do not drink alcohol.
If employees are expected to be in work the next day, remind them that disciplinary action could be taken of they fail to attend due to over indulging at the Christmas party. Equally if you are having a Christmas lunch let employees know whether they will be expected to return to work in the afternoon. If you have employees operating machinery then you should emphasise that alcohol will not be permitted.


If you are providing food for your employes, remember that different religions and beliefs cannot eat certain foods. The best way to avoid offending any employees is to ensure you always offer appropriate options for vegetarians, vegans and those who cannot eat specific foods, i.e beef or pork.  It is also advisable, where possible, to offer an alternative to employees with allergies such as wheat, and lactose.

Loose lips

Discussions had at a Christmas party could come back to haunt you.  In 2005 a claim was filed by an employee after a Manager had made a promise at the Christmas party that his salary would be increased to match another colleague within two years.  After two years the employee was not on the same salary and so the employee resigned and claimed constructive dismissal. The employment appeal tribunal eventually decided that the Manager did not intend to enter into a legally binding commitment at the Christmas party.  However, this was an expensive lesson for the employer to learn which could easily have been avoided if the Manager had not discussed remuneration at the Christmas party.

After the party 

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees therefore if an employee appears to have drunk too much, the employer should take responsibility.  Practically it would be sensible to arrange for the party to end before public transport stops running or to provide the numbers of local taxi companies and encourage employees to use them.  Another option (depending on cost) would be to provide a mini bus to take employees back to a place where they will be able to get home easily (i.e a railway station, or the office).

Finally have fun knowing that by following these simple steps you have organised a hassle free Christmas party for all to enjoy!

Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Act introduces a requirement for businesses over a certain size to publish an annual statement setting out the steps taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in their organisation or associated supply chains.

The Act consolidates existing offences relating to trafficking and slavery.

It obliges businesses which supply goods or services in the UK (with an annual turnover of more than £36 million) to publicly state each year the action they have taken to ensure their supply chains are slavery free. Turnover includes the turnover of any subsidiary business.

The annual statement must be published on the organisations website, and a link to it must be prominently placed on the homepage. (6 months after end of year accounts).

Non-compliance and enforcement – Secretary of State may enforce duty to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement through civil proceedings.
The view is to name and shame companies which to do not comply.
More information and guidance can be found at

Managing long-term absence

A common cause of concern for Managers and business owners is the absence of employees due to long-term sickness. In my experience Managers are often nervous in relation to how they should manage long-term sickness absence given the potentially sensitive nature of this area.

Here at Einon HR we often are asked “When is an employee classed as long-term sick”? “How do we get them back to work”? “Can we or should we contact the employee whilst they are sick”? “What happens if they are too unwell to return to work”?

An employee is normally considered as long-term once they have been absent for 4 weeks or more.

Throughout any absence Managers should discuss options with the employee which may facilitate their return to work, including adjustments to their work or a phased return. If the employer decides they wish to obtain medical advice they need to write to the employee and seek the employees consent before approaching the employee’s Doctor or Consultant.

Employers should regular keep in touch with their employees if they are absent, it is also advisable to hold a “welfare” meeting with the employee in order to discuss their absence and to get an up date on their state of health.

When medical advice is obtained it may state that the employee is unlikely to be able to return to work in the foreseeable future due to ill-health, and provided there are no alternative roles or reasonable adjustments that could be made to help the employee return, the employer would need to arrange a capability hearing and dismiss the employee on the grounds of ill-health capability, although this would be the final step an employer would take and only after full consideration of all the circumstances of the employees situation.

Employees who are deemed to have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 are entitled to have reasonable adjustments considered by the employer, to help them at work or return to work. Failure to make reasonable adjustments could result in a disability discrimination claim. Employees with over two years’ service who are either dismissed, or with whom the employer fails to keep in touch with during any long-term sickness absence, may decide to bring a claim for unfair or constructive unfair dismissal against the employer.

Long-term absence therefore, is something that can benefit from a proactive response and having clear policies and procedures which create consistency and add clarity for Managers.

If you need an absence policy or a review of your existing policy please give us a call.

Employee References

Recent work undertaken by Einon HR for a client in Rushden, Northants highlights the need for employers to take care when providing references for prospective employers. Any reference provided should be fair, accurate, true and not misleading, otherwise they risk claims for negligent misstatement or deceit.
It is also important that employers are consistent in their approach to avoid employee allegations of discrimination or victimisation. Having a policy in place on providing references helps.
There is generally no obligation on prospective employers to ask for a reference, but where an employer asks for one and receives a reference that it considers unsatisfactory, it should avoid knee jerk reactions such as withdrawing the job offer or dismissing the employee.