While a normal office Christmas party seems a long way off, there is still an opportunity for employees to have a festive gathering to boost morale and combat the loneliness that can arise from working at home by holding a virtual Christmas party.
Employers and employees should be mindful, though, of the potential risks arising from inappropriate behaviour which can still occur in a virtual environment. An office Christmas party is treated in law as ‘an extension of the workplace’, even if it is held off-site and outside working hours. Employers, and employees, can remain liable for acts of harassment, unlawful discrimination, or other unwanted conduct.
Employers have a defence if they can show they took all reasonable steps to prevent employees from committing discriminatory acts. Consider the following steps to minimise the risk – remind staff about acceptable behaviour, avoid putting pressure on or forcing all staff to attend, take care that any entertainment will not cause offence, consider employees who may not drink alcohol or who have food intolerances, remind staff about social media policies to avoid unflattering photos or remarks made online and deal with any complaints promptly. This should ensure a fun and trouble free night.
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