Did you know that an organized ‘work event’ taking place outside of the normal place of work and/or hours is generally seen as an extension of work? This means that the employer is likely to have the same legal responsibility.
The pitfalls can be avoided (or at least reduced) with careful planning and communication with the team.
We have a duty of care for the health and safety of our employees when they are at work and therefore this duty will automatically extend to work events too.
For those of us who like the odd tipple or two or three… especially at our Christmas bash when we like to let our hair down – it would be sensible for at least one senior member of the team to abstain from the alcohol and stick to orange juice so that they can monitor proceedings and nip any potential improper or dangerous behavior in the bud.
You may also want to take steps to limit the amount of alcohol available or, if you are offering a free bar, perhaps put a limit on that.
It is also important to consider the needs of all your employees when organising the event to avoid discrimination. This includes taking into account things like the date, the location and any theme as well as the catering – ensuring that food is available that meets employees’ religious and cultural requirements as well as any other dietary needs and that there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available. You will also need to take into account of any physical assistance or adjustments that may be required for disabled staff. Also – watch out for those members of staff who may get overly amorous or make inappropriate comments after a couple of drinks!!
It would be wise to send out some written communication before the event, reminding employees that it is a work event and that whilst you want them to enjoy themselves, they do need to behave in an appropriate and sensible manner and that any inappropriate conduct will not be acceptable and could lead to formal disciplinary action being taken. It could include behavior such as excessive drunkenness, the use of illegal drugs, unlawful or inappropriate discrimination or harassment, violence such as fighting or aggressive behaviour and serious verbal abuse or the use of other inappropriate language.
Finally, you may also want to make it clear to staff that any lateness to work the following day could result in disciplinary action being taken if there is reason to believe that the lateness is due to over-consumption of alcohol!