For millions of UK workers, the office Christmas party season is well and truly upon them, but employment law expert ELAS Business Support predicts severe hangovers all round as it observes increasing reports of bad behaviour following festive bashes.
Year on year, ELAS has observed a rise in complaints during January from disgruntled employers reporting cases of improper conduct at Christmas celebrations and has subsequently called for employees to be reprimanded more strongly in order to solve the problem.
ELAS has put together a list of reasons for disciplinary action it has seen over previous years due to booze-fuelled festive office events:
- Vomiting in the bosses lap. This resulted in the employee concerned being given a final written warning, but not dismissed
- An employee pushed another employee’s pregnant wife over during a disagreement. The employee who had pushed the other employee’s wife was disciplined and received a warning but was not dismissed. The company subsequently decided to cancel all future Christmas parties
- Fighting between colleagues, where both individuals were dismissed
- An employee shouted a string of abuse at her boss. She was later dismissed
- Inappropriate sexual advances between colleagues. The male employee was dismissed
- An employee looking spaced out in the foyer at a Christmas party because he had been smoking marijuana. He was immediately sent home and subsequently dismissed
- At an internal Christmas party, a work laptop being passed around with naked photos of employees. This resulted in a lengthy investigation, as the user of the laptop concerned denied any involvement and the employer’s IT contractor had to be brought in. This resulted in the perpetrator being identified and then disciplined and dismissed for gross misconduct
- An employee designing caricature Christmas cards of employees in risqué positions, which had the employees’ names on. This resulted in dismissal
- A forklift truck driver raising a guy on his forks without a hard hat. This was an extraordinarily dangerous manoeuvre, which resulted in dismissal for both employees.
Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at ELAS, says:
“Staff should always act professionally in what is still a work environment. A more relaxed attitude as co-workers enjoy a well-earned party together is to be encouraged, but drinking too much alcohol is no excuse for inappropriate behaviour.”
Following ELAS’ top tips for good office Christmas party etiquette will help to spare any blushes the morning after:
- Do have fun, but remember it is a work function
- Do not behave in an overly familiar way with colleagues
- Do drink plenty of water to balance out the effects of alcohol
- Do look out for colleagues who may have lost track of their drink count
- Do dress appropriately, a wardrobe malfunction is a definite no
- Do not hassle your manager for a raise or with your latest ‘brilliant’ idea.
A survey of 2,000 managers and workers published by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) earlier this month (December) revealed that 51 per cent of bosses would reprimand employees for improper conduct at a Christmas party.
Peter adds: “This figure is not nearly high enough, all incidents of this nature should be dealt with accordingly with the appropriate disciplinary actions. The responsibility lies both with bosses and employees. Management should remind employees that although the event is meant to be a fun chance to relax after a hard-working year, workers will still be representing the company and should act appropriately. Any proceedings taken against an employee after the event can lead to claims of constructive or unfair dismissal, potentially leading to a tarnished company reputation and a hefty compensation pay-out.
“With alcohol flowing during office Christmas parties, we typically see a noticeable spike in instances of disciplinary action and, in extreme cases, dismissals during late December and early January. It’s therefore vital for employees to be reminded that they can’t socialise with their co-workers in the same manner that they might with friends.”
The ILM survey also showed that:
- A quarter of organisations will not be throwing a Christmas party for their staff this year, despite 66 per cent of employees stating that an annual event is a great way to build relationships with colleagues
- 80 per cent had witnessed inappropriate behaviour at their staff Christmas party. This included kissing a colleague (35 per cent), shouting and aggression (30 per cent) and rudeness (28 per cent)
- 30 per cent admitted they struggled into work with a hangover the morning after
- Nearly 30 per cent of workers thought their bad behaviour at a work Christmas party had a negative impact on their career.
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