Perils and pitfalls of the party season - Business Works
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Perils and pitfalls of the party season

It's that one time of the year when you can really let your hair down at work, right? Wrong! Many employees mistake the office Christmas party as an opportunity to let loose and take full advantage of the free bar. However, as Ian Dawson, Employment Law expert at Shulmans LLP Solicitors points out, festive antics at the office party can have serious implications well beyond a red-faced walk through the office the next morning.

The Christmas party is often the only work event that embraces everyone from the boardroom to the factory floor, so employees place a lot of emphasis on making the most of the festivities. However, they often forget that their contract of employment still stands, even when the office party is held off work premises.

This means all clauses in their contract such as confidentiality, discipline, harassment and discrimination still exist yet within a context where plenty of often free alcohol is consumed, causing staff to lose their inhibitions and discuss typically taboo subjects more openly with colleagues.

In the age where social media is so prevalent, it is important office party goers watch not only what they say to fellow colleagues but also what they say on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

A drunken photo, status or tweet may seem harmless at the time but there have been many instances of staff being dismissed for inappropriate uses of Facebook and other social networking sites.

One notable example is of a call-centre worker who claimed that a day he took off work was for medical reasons when in fact it was to recover from alcohol consumption. He was caught out when his work's HR department drew his attention to a screen-grab of his Facebook page where he had announced after a heavy drinking session that he intended not to go to work followed by a rather strong expletive.

Other well-known examples include employees being sacked for ranting about their managers and / or customers via social media sites and posting inappropriate images online.

Social media has made it increasingly difficult to separate our personal and professional lives. At the Christmas office party itís especially important to remember that at any moment you might be being watched and that any snaps or thoughts you decide to tweet, Facebook or Instagram are out there for the entire world to see.

With the stresses of work, it is hard not to get wrapped up in Christmas fever, but when getting involved in any festive activities or events this year, it is always important to remember, you're not doing work, but youíre still at work!


  • Post inappropriate photographs, comments or thoughts on social networking sites.
  • Make inappropriate jokes, such as your boss being Father Christmas because he only seems to work one day a year. You might not be working, but youíre still at work. Never say anything you wouldn't be entirely comfortable with saying at 9am in the office.
  • Wear your most revealing outfit or comedy slogan t-shirt. Check the dress code first and remember, revealing too much flesh may offend some colleagues and your idea of a jokey t-shirt may be someone else's idea of an offensive remark.
  • Get blind drunk. Falling over the boss then vomiting into the punch is likely to involve you in disciplinary action.
  • Think it would be hilarious to give inappropriate gifts for the Secret Santa exchange of presents, such as a bag of pork scratchings to a Jewish colleague. The recipient might not be offended, but other colleagues could be and this could still land you in trouble under the law.


  • Remember that bringing illegal substances to the party to 'make it go with a swing' is likely to be a career-ending move.
  • Avoid all controversial conversation topics: sex, politics and religion. All three are likely to get you into trouble, no matter how like-minded you may consider your colleagues.
  • Be tolerant and respectful of those who don't celebrate Christmas. And if you're an employer, remember Ė you may have to arrange an alternative event to avoid allegations of discrimination on religious grounds.
  • Bosses: you have a duty of care towards all your employees. Make sure everyone has the means to get home safely.

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