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Time for celebration – but dealer bosses and staff need to be careful about their Christmas parties, warns legal expert

  • Bosses can be held liable for employees’ actions at online events as well as at venues
  • Employees could face disciplinary action for inappropriate behaviour
  • Unauthorised absence because of party-related sickness the day after could also lead to a disciplinary

Time 1 week ago

Dealership bosses and their staff must be cautious during the Christmas party season if they don’t want any unseasonal consequences.

That’s the advice of Lawgistics’ Katie Fitzjohn, who says that although it’s a time for celebration, employers need to be aware of four factors when it comes to the office bash: inclusion, venue, vicarious liability, and expected behaviours.

Writing on the automotive legal consultancy’s website, she said every employee should be invited, regardless of their religious persuasion, and the invitation should be extended to staff who have been absent because of maternity, paternity or sick leave as well.

However, they also need to be told that going to the party isn’t obligatory.

Most Christmas parties last year were held online, and some employers might opt for a virtual event this year as well. But if it’s taking place at a venue, the location should be accessible for disabled staff.

In addition, all the activities must be appropriate for everyone.

Explaining a boss’s position on vicarious liability – where the employer is held responsible for their staff’s actions – the legal adviser writes: ‘The Christmas party may be deemed as an extension of the workplace, even if it takes place off premises and outside working hours.

‘Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees committed “in the course of employment”.

‘For example, employers are likely to remain liable for any acts of harassment, bullying, discrimination and assaults carried out by their employees.’

Crucially, it also applies to online events.

Fitzjohn says expected behaviours remain the same whether the party is online or at a venue.

‘Employees should be reminded of the expected standard of conduct, and any inappropriate behaviour such as fighting, use of illegal drugs and sexual harassment could result in disciplinary action.’

She adds: ‘Those who consume alcohol should ensure they drink responsibly and do not drink and drive.

‘In this regard, the employer may wish to consider arranging taxis or other transport to and from the event.

‘Employees should be encouraged to monitor their alcohol intake and reminded that any unauthorised absence from sickness on the morning after is likely to result in disciplinary action.’

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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