Social events such as Christmas parties can be a great excuse for staff to let their hair down and forget the stresses of the year.  However, in some cases, excessive alcohol consumption can leave business owners with a nasty hangover of wasted management time and expense which stretches long into the next year.

This guide explores the actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a costly post-party hangover.

1. What’s the risk? – You could find yourself ‘vicariously liable’ for the actions of your employees at the Christmas party, if those actions are deemed to have been committed in the course of employment.

2. Why is this? Office parties and client functions are classified as an extension of employment.  This means that the employer is held liable for either acts of discrimination or acts of negligence committed by its employees during these events.

3. What about if the party or event is held outside of office hours?  You would still be liable for the actions of your employees.

4. What behaviours could I be held responsible for? Violence, verbal abuse, harassment and excessive drunkenness are some examples of inappropriate behaviours.

5. So how can I protect my business?  By showing that you took all reasonable steps to prevent your employees from behaving inappropriately (in the course of their employment).

6. Can you give me some practical examples?  

I.            By circulating a written policy to all staff which sets out the standard of behaviour expected and what behaviour is considered inappropriate and unacceptable.

II.           By monitoring behaviour and taking appropriate action, such as refusing further service to those who have had too much to drink.

III.         By limiting the amount of alcohol provided and providing a range of soft drink options

In my early career, a colleague of mine was enjoying the free flowing alcohol at the firm’s Christmas party and thought it would be a great idea to run across a very ornate (and expensive) water feature which was situated in the hotel foyer.  He was lucky.  A letter of apology to the hotel manager and payment for the damage caused meant that he was able to cling onto his job.

For more information, contact Ramshaw HR @


By Bruce Ramshaw

Principal Consultant


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