HM Insights

The Shetland blog: An employers' guide to having an uneventful Christmas party

With Christmas just around the corner many workplaces are preparing themselves for the Christmas party. It has been reported that as great a proportion as 90% of employers have had to deal with an employment problem stemming from a Christmas party and 10% of employees know someone who has faced disciplinary proceedings or dismissal as a result of fall-out from their work’s Christmas party.

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Code of conduct

Remind employees in advance of the party that while you hope they really enjoy themselves, there are certain standards of conduct which must be adhered to in order to ensure that everyone has a good time. Clearly state that drunken and/or disorderly behaviour, illegal drug taking, verbal or physical abuse, harassment of a sexual or discriminatory nature is likely to result in disciplinary action.


Be aware that if you provide free alcohol, you may not be entitled to hold employees accountable for inappropriate drunken behaviour.

Employers should also consciously avoid falling into the trap of conducting a staff appraisal during the office party!

In one case, an employee claimed his boss had indicated that a higher salary would be forthcoming. He qualified this statement with the words “in due course”. Of course, his pay stayed the same and so the employee promptly tendered his resignation and filed a claim for constructive dismissal. The employer won the case but only because the nature of the promise was vague.


Employers can fairly dismiss employees for fighting at a Christmas party. In one case, an employment tribunal held that it was reasonable for the employer to dismiss an employee for punching a colleague in the face during the walk home from the party. The tribunal held that the incident following the Christmas party was sufficiently connected to work to find the dismissal fair.

Party romance

It is not uncommon for office romances to blossom at the Christmas party. Be clear on what your stance is on office relationships.

Sexual harassment has been very much in the news of late and should be taken very seriously. One workplace survey once found that, whilst 80% of women would laugh off a pass made by a male co-worker, boss or client, 13% would lodge a complaint.

Social Media

One last thing is to be aware of the likelihood of pictures and videos from the party being posted on social media. Make sure your employees know exactly what your rules are regarding the use of social media in relation to work and work related events.

Hopefully with the boundaries set and understood the Christmas party will be a very merry one for all involved with no unwanted hangovers!

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This article originally appeared in the Shetland Times