15th December 2010


 Issue No.  2010/31




Christmas is fast approaching - “Oh no!!” you may cry!  Usually a time to lighten the atmosphere a little after what, for many, has been a tough year.
At this time of year, the old Christmas decorations are found and displayed to get into a festive spirit for a festive period.  Part of the “bah humbug brigade” - we are not advocating a stop to displaying Christmas decorations but invite you to consider just a few practical and sensible rules to follow, to ensure that the festive period is not marred by tragedy.
Christmas Decorations – a few simple rules: 
  1. When displaying Christmas decorations, use the correct equipment – e.g. use appropriate ladders/access equipment – don’t stand on chairs/desks/tables etc – you know it makes sense – falls from height - danger – could cause a broken leg (and we don’t mean the chair/table leg either!);
  2. Don’t hang up any mistletoe - for any office lothario this may be just too much temptation;
  3. Don’t display decorations that obstruct important safety signs/notices;
  4. Look at the location of the decorations to risk assess whether they pose a potential fire hazard;
  5. Remember that you should not stick pins in surfaces where asbestos may be concealed;
  6. If you use Christmas lights, or other types of electrical decorations: have they been PAT tested (or were they in a box at the time of testing and got missed)?  


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.
We understand that with cost saving measures in place, that the Christmas party may be “off the agenda” but if colleagues decide to organise their own “bit of a do” (obviously you’ve not been invited), you need to be aware of the risks associated with such a “do”.
Now you’re thinking that we are part of the “bah humbug brigade” but we believe you can have a good time and by taking just a few precautions the party should be both fun, and more importantly safe for all attendees.
The Official Company/Department Christmas 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 vicariously liable for incidents that occur. 
The Unofficial Company/Department Party
‘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. 
Problems that might occur
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, 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?
Simple: just 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.
Poppers or Poopers?
Now before you jump up and label us as party poopers - we too have a night out organised and have put up the Christmas decorations - when done with the above in mind you should be able to have a great time without mishap.
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.  Enjoy!




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