Financial & Legal News

The ghost of Christmas future? (If your employees behave badly…)

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Businesses can be liable for their employee’s bad behaviour...

There are plenty of good reasons for ensuring that everyone behaves themselves at Christmas “work-dos” – not least the risk of damage to your business’s reputation if trouble does occur.

But, did you know that businesses themselves can be liable for the actions of their employees – even if the employees act violently and cause injury to others? This type of liability is called “vicarious liability”. A company can be held liable for the actions of its employee if that employee was “acting in the course or scope of his or her employment”.

Recently*, a manager took court action or ‘sued’ his employer company after one of its directors assaulted him after a works party and he suffered serious brain injuries. In this case, the court found that the company was not liable to the manager for the injuries: the employees involved had moved on after the works party and were drinking privately when the incident had taken place.

The decision does, however, flag up an issue for employer. At this time of year, the office rules can often relax a little and employees are more likely to drink more than usual.

Unfortunately, alcohol can bring out the worst in some people. While not wanting to be ‘kill-joys’, employers should watch out for signs of tension among their staff after heavy drinking and perhaps have someone on hand at Christmas parties to provide coffee and/or a lift home for those who have overindulged.  Better to pay for the cost of a taxi, than have to deal with an injured employee or member of the public – and face the spectre of a future court claim for damages.

To find out more, read our article or have a look at our list of recent @Pearson_SFB tweets below.


For further information or to discuss difficult employment issues that arise during the party-going season, contact Susan Mayall on 0161 684 6948 or make an enquiry.

* See the High Court decision in Bellman v. Northampton Recruitment [2016] EWHC 3104 (QB)

Posted 9 December 2016

Tips to avoid problems at Christmas work parties – a list of our recent tweets

  • No employer wants to put a damper on the festivities…
  • Timely advice can’t go amiss before the #ChristmasWorkParty. Read our #tips: keep staff & business reputations safe.
  • Discriminatory or offensive comments made online at/after your #Xmasparty could affect your business.
  • It’s scarily easy for employees to create negative publicity for their employer's business using #socialmedia.
  • Tip#1: Employees: remember that you represent your employer’s business.
  • Tip#2: Guard your behaviour on & off-line - it can affect business’s reputation in the community & your sales.
  • Tip#3: It is never a good idea to post messages or photos on social media platforms after a drink.
  • Tip#4: Employers: check your #socialmedia #policy is in place. Remind your employees about it.
  • Tip#5: Provide food - line those stomachs! Ensure it respects your staff’s religious requirements.
  • Tip#6: If offence is given at the #XmasWorkParty, deal with it quickly (if possible). Is an apology appropriate?  
  • Tip#7: If offence has been given, has it highlighted deeper issues? Sort in work hours- not at the #XmasWorkParty
  • Tip#8: Hangovers are bad enough: don’t let the #XmasWorkParty create business headaches. Remind staff of your #workplacepolicies beforehand.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Susan Mayall


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