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The festive season and risks for employers

It’s that time of year again….when lawyers warn employers of the risks of tribunal claims at Christmas from staff. 

Over the years there has been plenty of case law and anecdotes about issues that have arisen during the holiday season.  From discrimination cases by employees on maternity leave who are “forgotten” about when it comes to Christmas party invites, to the organisations who hold Christmas parties in the office and have to issue rules about misuse of the office photocopier!

One of the most common areas that we advise on at this time of year is misconduct at the Christmas party itself.  Only last month was a case reported about a lucky employer who was not liable for the acts of its Managing Director who knocked out an employee at a hotel where celebrations had continued after the Christmas party.

With the rise of social media we have also seen a rise of incidents that occur post-Christmas – mostly to do with extra marital activities that have come to light after a few sherries on the dancefloor!  It is advisable for employers to have robust social media and bullying and harassment policies in place.

There have also been cases where employees have relied on drunken promises by managers of promotions and pay rises.  

In the current economic climate MLR are asked to advise on the ability to stop paying Christmas bonuses.  Depending on the wording of the employment contracts this may be possible.  However, where a bonus has been paid over a number of years, an employee may argue that they have now come to expect it and it is implied in their employment.

Finally, should we be so lucky as to have a white Christmas, for those businesses that do not close over the holiday, staff may find it difficult to attend work.  Employers should think about an adverse weather policy which could include reporting procedures and the possibility of staff working from home or taking annual leave.

Last but not least from everyone at Morgan LaRoche Solicitors – we hope you have a wonderful Christmas.