Donald MacKinnon: Take responsibility over Xmas

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The annual Christmas bash for employees has long been a time for letting your hair down, however, sometimes spirits get high and people get carried away, resulting in a disciplinary action for inappropriate behaviour at the Christmas party long after the hangover subsides.

Our advice for employers is to ensure that all staff are reminded of their equalities training and if they decide to offer alcohol, that there are also plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available too, to reduce the chances of over-indulgence. This year also marks a lowered drink drive alcohol tolerance level from 80mg to 50mg, so we’d advise bosses sending out a reminder to workers to be extra vigilant in ensuring they are not over the limit the morning after, which could result in them losing their licence and possibly their jobs too.

We are also reminding employers to place additional awareness on ensuring that female drivers stay below the alcohol limit after a survey revealed that driving convictions for female motorists have doubled over the past 15 years.

Alcohol is normally the biggest culprit for causing havoc at Christmas parties. People often don’t realise just how much they have had, so don’t see getting behind the wheel as a huge issue. Employers can help by hosting the Christmas party in a central location – so if employees want to indulge in a well deserved Christmas tipple, there are still plenty of travel options for a safe journey home. After a few festive drinks, employees can often reveal their “colleague crush” to colleagues or maybe even the person themselves. Yet, alcohol-fuelled confessions can escalate and sometimes lead to inappropriate, and unwanted, attention. Employees trying to persuade a crush into a cheeky Christmas peck under the mistletoe can turn into headaches for employers, as claims for harassment start to rear their ugly heads.

The booze can also act as a “truth serum” and cause employees, or employers for that matter, to over-share after they’ve had a drink. Colleagues can be found discussing other members of staff, while others use it as an opportunity to tell their boss what they really think of them.

The effects of alcohol can impact on the enjoyment of Christmas parties and the next working day. To ensure employees have a cracking time, our advice to employers is simple – make sure everyone is aware of their legal responsibilities in order to avoid New Year headaches.

Donald MacKinnon is director of legal services at LAW at Work