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Christmas Parties – It’s the season for potential claims!

15 December 2018
Christmas Parties – It’s the season for potential claims!

With the Christmas period fast approaching us, so is the much-anticipated Christmas office parties. However, while employers may host these events to show their gratitude to their employees, they need to keep in mind that the principle of vicarious liability may extend to activities which occur outside normal working hours.

What is Vicarious liability?

Vicarious liability refers to a situation where an employer is held responsible for the actions of their employees which are committed “within the course of employment.”

Case study

In the recent Court of Appeal decision in Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd the employer was held liable for actions which occurred at impromptu drinks after the Christmas party. After the 2011 Christmas party had ended, approximately half of the guests continued on for impromptu drinks at a near by hotel. The company paid for the taxis to the hotel and after a few more drinks the topic of conversation turned to a controversial work issue. The company’s managing director, Mr Major, then lost his temper and proceeded to lecture those present. When Mr Major was challenged, in a non-aggressive manner, by Mr Bellman, he swore and repeatedly punched him. Subsequent medical reports showed that the Mr Bellman had severe brain damage as a result an it is unlikely, he will be able to work again.

What does this mean for employers?

Although Christmas parties may appear at first not be “company events” but purely social ones, they may be seen as an extension of the work place. If the nature of the employee’s job is engaged at any point this can provide a connection with the employee’s employment. Therefore, it is essential that employers take appropriate steps to protect themselves such as:

  • Conducting a review of the relevant policies and where necessary seeking advice to ensure they are adequate.
  • Where it is appropriate, discussing with your staff your expectations of their behaviour and that work issues should not be discussed.
  • Consider the amount of alcohol you may be providing (a free bar may encourage employees to over indulge).
  • Ask certain members of staff to stay sober and look out for any inappropriate behaviour, providing them with advice on how best to deal with any situations that may arise.
  • Taking appropriate action against perpetrators and dealing with any grievances in a fair manner and in line with the Company Policy.

If you require any advice on how to best protect your company at social events please contact us via email at contact@davenportsolicitors.com or via phone on 020 7903 6888.

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