There’s seemingly an unwritten rule about Christmas parties: namely, that everything goes.
Based on how much you’ve got away with in the past, there can be an assumption that you can do pretty much whatever you like without running the risk of losing your job or even being disciplined.
However, you could not be further from the truth.
While no one’s likely to give you too much grief for showing up hungover the next day, there are things you can do that are bad enough to bring genuinely bad consequences.
“The fact that the employer put on a free bar will be no defence for the employee,” Owen John of law firm Darwin Gray told WalesOnline.
Indeed, as Nia Cooper of London and Cardiff firm Capital Law added, “It is possible for an employer to take disciplinary action against employees who display bad behaviour during or even after a Christmas party.”
That’s right, before, during and after.
So, what qualifies as sackable behaviour? Put simply, anything that would see you disciplined in normal circumstances will have the same consequences here.
For example, sexual harassment is still sexual harassment if you’re drunk at the work Christmas do and, indeed, a harassed employee could take legal action against both their colleague and their employer in such circumstances.
It probably doesn’t need saying, but fighting at the party is also frowned upon – both from a legal perspective and, y’know, just generally. Don’t punch your colleagues in any circumstances is the moral here.
“Although fighting will most likely justify dismissal, it is imperative that employers carry out as thorough an investigation as possible,” Cooper said.
“In recent cases, a failure to identify who ‘threw the first punch’ and resulting inconsistent treatment of those involved has led to findings of unfair dismissal.”
If you’re an employer putting on a party for your staff, you might not be entirely sure of your rights.
In that case, erring on the side of caution is probably the way to go. That means making the rules clear beforehand, so the ‘we didn’t know’ defence can’t be used.
Of course, that defence won’t always hold water anyway, but you probably want the deck stacked in your favour as much as possible.