9th December 2009


 Issue No.  2009/26




It is December and Christmas is fast approaching.  Oh no!! you may cry!
We are always up for a good time at Christmas, but we would like to take this opportunity to put out our usual seasonal reminders about the ‘festivities’.
Christmas Decorations
Firstly – unwise to hang up any mistletoe - for any office lothario this may be just too much temptation.
Secondly - if you display Christmas decorations, you should ensure that they do not obstruct important safety signs/notices; and you should look at the location of the decorations to risk assess whether they pose a potential fire hazard. Equally important is when the decorations are being displayed, you need to ensure that they are being done so safely, ensuring that proper equipment is being used. Use appropriate access equipment (NOT desks or chairs!!) when displaying decorations at height.  Remember that you should not stick pins in surfaces where asbestos may be concealed.

If you use Christmas lights, have they been PAT tested (or were they in a box at the time of testing and got missed)?
Christmas Party
Are you having a ‘bit of a do’ this Christmas? Whilst Christmas parties are for you, your colleagues and employees to celebrate the end of another year, just be aware of the risks of having a party. Christmas parties always produce some employment law horror stories from the pranks that went too far, to complaints of being groped in the stationery cupboard. 
Where the ‘works do’ is arranged by work, paid for by work and attended by employees and sometimes partners/family, this is likely to be an extension of the workplace.  This can render the employer to become vicariously liable for incidents that occur. 
‘Colleague get togethers’, even though not paid for by work but attended by just work colleagues could, depending on the facts, also be deemed an extension of work causing the Employer to be liable for any events at that function.  Just think about the potential: -
  • someone may say things they don’t mean (or perhaps would not say if sober) and upset colleagues; or
  • someone ‘tries it on’ with a colleague and the ‘advance’ may not be welcomed and could amount to sexual harassment; or
  • two employees argue and fuelled with alcohol, it turns to a fight,
  • an employee drives home over the legal limit
So what should you do? Well we do not suggest you serve up a massive portion of ‘bah humbug’ but do urge you to take a few simple precautions.
When inviting staff to the office party, include a comment reminding them that: 
  • It is a ‘Company do’ and therefore ask employees to bear in mind that they are representing the company at the event or remind them that the usual standards apply – in otherwords, they are expected to behave.  Therefore, ask all to; act sensibly, don’t drink excessively and do not do anything that damages the reputation of the organisation or upset or offend colleagues or anybody else (e.g. bar staff) at the party.
Use your judgement with entertainment and do not order anything that may offend.
A job for the Boss (or your nominee)!
Ideally someone in a senior position should be responsible for staying ‘sober’ so they can deal sensibly with any unfortunate event. This might include preventing someone from driving or dealing with unsavoury behaviour. By maintaining a clear head they would be able to give a reliable account of events at any subsequent investigation back at the work place. A bit hard on the ‘sober’ employee but ….
let’s not forget…Better to be safe than sorry
And finally a reminder to your employees before the Christmas party:-
Any amount of alcohol can affect a driver’s ability to drive safely; react appropriately and judge speed and distances accurately. The only safe option is NOT to drink if you plan to drive home after the party.
Therefore if you intend having an alcoholic drink we recommend you make alternative arrangements to get home.  DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE.
You should also be aware that alcohol may remain in the body for around 24 hours. If you are going to drive early the following day, you should be aware of the possibility of having excess alcohol left in your system from the night before.
With a little advance thought and planning there should be no reason why we should not all enjoy the run up to Christmas and the New Year in the traditional fashion.




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