Christmas Parties and
HR Grievance Handling

A chance for the team to get together, unwind and reflect back on the hard work accomplished over the year. With spirits high, smiles all round and drinks usually flowing, what could go wrong?

How Potential Grievances Occur

Once people relax into their surroundings or start to have one too many drinks, there can be a number of potential grievances amongst staff and management including but not limited to:

  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Sexual harassment
  • Aggression/fighting
  • Unsolicited peer feedback
  • An employee raising a grievance at the party
  • Vandalism

It’s important to be aware of the potential risks when it comes to planning an event or office party, and in the event that any grievances emerge, not discriminate or have a bias towards anyone.

HR Grievance Handling and the Law

Equality Act 2010 states employers are liable for acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by employees.

If an incident happens at a work party, it usually is still considered to be a work-related incident, therefore it would need to be dealt with in the workplace and may be considered a disciplinary offence.

The Actions You Must Take

If a grievance is raised, as an employer it is within your right to investigate what happened. The HR grievance handling process usually follows a staged approach of interviewing, potential suspension (if it was a serious incident, while investigations were going on), review, followed by a disciplinary meeting if necessary.

However, always take some consideration that the incident occurred at a Christmas function and was alcohol a contributing factor? Not all such grievances would require an investigation, but perhaps a conversation with the people concerned.

However, if it’s a case of gross misconduct (for example, violence towards another member of staff or person) then the employee/s would need to be legally dismissed.

If you’re an employee with a grievance – the best course of action to take is to speak to HR or your line manager.

Prevention is Better Than The Cure

So, what can you do to prevent this type of behaviour occurring in the first place?

Let your employees know beforehand that they are still representing your company when attending any work-related function and relay the expectation of behaviour.  As an employer it is well within your right and best interest to do this.  Be clear and outline what’s appropriate and what won’t be tolerated – especially with larger teams.

As best practice, you could include the current COVID 19 guidelines and mitigate against that risk as much as possible.

With the pandemic constantly changing and the risk of the virus still among us – there are other ways to have a Christmas party get-together, outdoor events or light illuminations can be a great way to socialise, keep the alcohol to a minimum and reduce the risk of COVID 19 and grievances.

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