Time to get the Christmas office party started, but beware of bad behaviour

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so the song goes with the party season, coronavirus permitting, getting into full swing.

That means office parties, workplace dos, call them what you will, can get out of hand with inappropriate behaviour and subsequent problems in the workplace.

This could be even more exaggerated after the last Christmas lockdown with everyone wanting to let their hair down at a party.

So while everyone, employer and workers, want a good time, the temptation to go over the top should be resisted and warned against.

Without wanting to seem like Scrooge, employers may wish to consider reminding staff of their obligations when attending out-of-workplace celebrations

Mixing the euphoria of a holiday break with alcohol can lead to people over-indulging and misbehaving. The celebratory events are still classified as work-related and so the usual disciplinary rules apply to staff behaviour.

Parties still considered a workplace environment

According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) if misconduct happens outside the workplace an employee could face disciplinary action.

For example, where an employee’s behaviour in front of external clients at the work Christmas party reflects badly on the company.

It depends on how serious the employer sees the misconduct and whether it could have a bad effect on the business.

Absence post-party is another issue that might have to be dealt with. Those who turn up hungover or late after a weekday party can be subject to the organisation’s disciplinary procedures.

Some may not turn up at all and while employers may have their suspicions as to the reason for absence, e.g. a hangover, it’s difficult to prove.

According to Acas, an employee can legally self-certify any absence for up to seven days. This means they tell their employer they’re not well enough to work and do not need to provide any further medical evidence. Otherwise, it can be considered as unauthorised absence and subject to disciplinary procedures.

Clear policy needed on workplace absence

Action can be taken for multiple periods of unlinked absences, but employers should be careful that there are definitely no health conditions or underlying reasons which have caused the time off.

An absence policy should make clear exactly what’s expected from both the employer and employee if the employee needs to take time off work and Acas guidance includes:

  • How to report absences, including who the employee should contact and when
  • When the employee needs to get a sick note
  • When return to workdiscussions will be held and with who
  • How and when to keep in touch
  • How the employer keeps track of absenceand if they set any review or ‘trigger’ points
  • Whether the employer provides occupational health or an employee assistance programme (EAP) and when this starts
  • How much the employee will be paid and for how long.

For help and advice on employment matters, contact our expert team at AGS HR Solutions today to discuss your requirements.