Insights

Summer parties

With life is gradually getting back to ‘normal’, we have seen a steady rise in face-to-face networking, staff events and parties, as we try to make up for the past couple of years.  And summer parties and social events are great way of bringing staff back together, boosting morale and thanking staff for their hard work.

The key point to have in mind when organising an event, is that summer parties like all work-based social events are an extension of the workplace.  This means that if something goes off at the party, it should be treated as you would any other issue that occurred in the office.

If an employee suffers discrimination or harassment at a work social event, it should be investigated in the usual way.  An employer can make out a defence, if it can show that it took all reasonable steps before the incident occurred to prevent it happening.  As a minimum, employers should have in place policies (anti-harassment, equal opportunities and so on), make employees aware of them, train staff and managers regularly and take appropriate disciplinary action when issues arise.

What practical steps can employers take to make sure the party isn’t remembered for all the wrong reasons?

Before the party...

  • Remind staff that your usual office rules apply even if it is outside of work hours or offsite and employees will be bound by your disciplinary, grievance and anti-harassment, social media policies and so on, in the usual way.
  • Be inclusive, think about where and when the party will take place.  Use an accessible venue, and if there is to be entertainment, make sure that it is appropriate and not likely to offend.
  • Think about your menu, some groups will not eat certain foods.  If you are providing a bar, make sure that food is served. 
  • Plan the journey home.  Take steps in advance to avoid employees driving home if they have been drinking, perhaps providing transportation, or at least having taxi phone numbers available.

At the party...

  • If something goes wrong, then wait until after the event to investigate. 
  • Whilst it may be a good idea to send an employee home, do not be tempted to investigate the issue in detail at the time and especially not in front of other employees.  Investigate if necessary after the event as you would any other disciplinary matter.
  • Managers should avoid discussions about performance and pay to avoid offending or inadvertently making promises to the employee that may be misunderstood.

The morning after…

  • In the event that there is a complaint, investigate as you would any other grievance.  Many of the cases surrounding work parties involve the failure to adequately investigate grievances raised after the event. 
  • If the following day is a working day and you want employees to attend, then warn them in advance that unauthorised absences will not be tolerated.
  • Be consistent with how you handle any post-party absences.

And, after all of this, try to enjoy the party!

To speak to a member of our employment team in complete confidence, please contact 01689 887 873 or email laura.claridge@cwj.co.uk.

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Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.