Home' HR Monthly : November 2015 Contents November 2015 HRMonthly 51
LAUGHS, LUST ANDLEGAL ACTION
How to prevent the workplace Christmas party becoming a night to regret.
BY AARON GOONREY & LUKE SCANDRETT, LANDER & ROGERS
f##king useless and mess up my pay again. C##ts are going down
tomorrow.” Unsurprisingly, the management found this to be
threatening and derogatory and the employee lost his job.
The employee brought an unfair dismissal claim against his
employer. However, the employer’s decision to dismiss was
upheld. This was despite the fact that the employee had posted
the comments on Facebook while at home and outside of working
hours. According to the court, the fact that the employee’s work
colleagues were able to view his abusive Facebook posts was
grounds enough to justify the employee’s dismissal.
However, the employer still had to deal with the damage done
by the employee’s conduct and relevant managers were concerned
that their reputations had been damaged by the comments.
It is easy to see the potential damage social media can cause,
especially when it is all too easily accessible for employees who
have drunk too much at their workplace Christmas party. A ny
consequential photos or comments which are posted can have
significant negative impacts on both the employees making the
posts, other colleagues reading the posts and on the employer.
Challenge #2: Where does ‘the workplace’ end?
It is tempting for HR to consider their job to be finished after
the music is turned down and the lights are switched off.
Unfortunately, it has been found in several cases that employees’
misconduct can still be considered to be within the workplace,
even if it occurred outside the four walls of the office.
In one case, a pilot’s misconduct was found to have occurred in
‘the workplace’ after he fondled a female colleague’s breast while
in the taxi returning to his employer-provided accommodation.
In another case, an employee’s groping of a waitress’ bottom
while eating and drinking at a hotel was found to have occurred
in ‘the workplace’ as the employer had an established, ongoing
relationship with the hotel and regularly booked rooms for its
An employer cannot assume that ‘the workplace’ has a narrow
defi nition. Employees and their employer can potentially be held
liable for their actions both during official workplace Christmas
functions and also in the hours which follow.
Challenge #3: Who should be in charge of the
responsible service of alcohol?
Companies often book an ex ternal venue for Christmas functions.
Usually, when this is the case, part of the agreement between
the company and the ex ternal venue is that the venue will be
responsible for the responsible service of alcohol.
HR should not be fooled into a false sense of security. In a
recent case, an employee’s misconduct following a Christmas
party was found, in part, to have been caused by his employer’s
failure to monitor his consumption of alcohol, even though the
employer had arranged for the external venue to have this task.
How you can prepare for your Christmas function
The following strategies, while they cannot guarantee an
incident-free function, should help minimise the risks.
• Review your company’s policies to ensure that the expected
standard of employees’ behaviour inside and outside ‘the
workplace’ is clearly set out and that there is an appropriate
and thorough disciplinary procedure in place. The policies
should also make it clear that behaviour which may damage the
employer’s reputation, even if this behaviou r occurs outside the
workplace, may still be subject to disciplinary action.
• Employees must be thoroughly trained in the relevant policies,
including disciplinary policy and procedures, particularly the
people who are responsible for managing out of hours functions.
• Ensure that there is some form of monitoring of employee
alcohol consumption and behaviour at workplace functions.
Don’t leave the responsible service of alcohol and the supervision
of you r employees at work functions to the venue’s hosts.
15/10/2015 11:22 am
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