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Festive Fears for Employers

Festive Fears for Employers

Business bosses in Coventry and Warwickshire are being warned that they could be held responsible if staff behaviour is deemed 'unacceptable' during the festive season.

Coventry law firm Band Hatton Button say many employers are not aware that they can be held legally responsible for the actions of their employees - even when that behaviour falls outside of normal working hours, and away from the workplace.

Mark Ridley, partner in the employment department at Coventry law firm Band Hatton Button, said: "In order to minimise the risk to their business, employers are advised to ensure that they have in place a comprehensive Equal Opportunities Policy and an Anti-Harassment and Bullying Policy.

"These policies should make it clear to all employees what levels of behaviour are unacceptable, both in the workplace, and away from the workplace whilst on business or at a work arranged social function."
Ridley added, however, that a written policy is not the only answer and that employers should limit the chances of staff getting 'too drunk' on the Christmas party.

He said: "Such policies alone are unlikely to be sufficient to avoid an employer being found responsible for the unacceptable behaviour of its employees.

"Having only the policies may be considered as paying only lip service to the employer's obligations. It is important that the policies have a practical effect, including action being taken pursuant to them in the event of a breach by an employee.

"Equal opportunities training can also often be crucial for an employer to show that it has taken all reasonable steps to prevent discriminatory behaviour or harassment by its employees.

"ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) suggest that employers should consider informing staff of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour at social events, including the likely consequences of such behaviour.

"They also suggest that employers may wish to limit the amount of alcohol available at events, or provide non-alcoholic alternatives, whilst also supplying sufficient food to reduce the risk of employees becoming drunk.

"It all highlights that many employers aren't aware that they can be held legally responsible for the actions of their employees, even if it's outside of the work place, so it's a good time for businesses to review workplace policies and remind their employees of their conduct, to ensure they are adequately protected.

"Issues can include romantic encounters; telling the boss what you really think of them; calling in sick the day after; and even drunken derogatory social media posts.

"The hope is that businesses won't see any of their employees behaving badly over the festive season, but rest assured there is guidance in place and advice available should it be needed."

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