Employers can be held liable for acts of their employees are committed in the course of their employment.
Work-related social events such as the Christmas party are found by the Employment Tribunal to be in the course of employment.
There is often lots of alcohol at the Christmas Party, employees can quickly let their guard down and can make jokes or make advances they would not usually make in the workplace.
This can amount to harassment or discrimination.
It is also the case that, if such behaviour continues, for example in a care when the employee is given a lift home after the event, than the harassment is a continuation of the same course of conduct.
In such a situation, should the employee make a claim to the Employment Tribunal, the amount of compensation that can be awarded is unlimited.
It is recommended that all practice owners issue a policy statement which states that all employees should be treated with dignity at the Christmas party and that any behaviour which can an amount to an act of discrimination or harassment will not be permitted or condoned. It should also state that employees who feel as though they are discriminated upon should complain to the practice owner.
The main policy which should be circulated is the Equality and Diversity Policy.
This Policy should then be communicated to all employees in advance of the Christmas Party.
Managers and supervisors have a particular duty to ensure that harassment does not occur. They should have a sound understanding of the policy and be responsive to it.
If an employee complains about the behaviour of a fellow colleague at the Christmas Party then a grievance procedure should be followed to try to stop the issue from escalating.
If it is found that an employee has violated this policy, it should be treated as a disciplinary offence.
Practices are advised to ensure all staff are reminded of the Equality & Diversity/Dignity at Work Policy in advance to try and prevent any issues occurring and to ensure you have a good defence in the Employment Tribunal.
For more than 20 years, members of the Cohen Cramer Dental Team have been advising dental principals, associates and practice managers on all of the legal aspects of buying, selling and running dental practices. With extensive experience in the dental sector the firm is ideally placed to understand and respond to the needs of dental practitioners and practice managers. Please contact Head of the Employment Team, Sarah Buxton on 0113 224 7834 if you wish to discuss any legal issues in respect of your practice or alternatively we would be happy to visit you at your practice for a no cost/obligation consultation.