At this time of year, in any town up and down the UK, you will see groups of office workers in pubs and restaurants enjoying their annual office Christmas party.
Most events will go off smoothly, and barring a few hangovers the next day, there will be no repercussions. However, if a staff member were to seriously misbehave, then you would want the company to be covered against prosecution or against being sued. You would also want to have something in place that would allow you to take any necessary disciplinary action.
You will undoubtedly have already published a number of vital policies, and may even have written new policies covering things like the use of social media or the use of personal mobile devices at work. But if you haven’t considered writing a policy about social events, then it’s you did.
Why do you need a social events policy?
Any “misbehaviour” or actions that are not in keeping with your company or brand reflect badly on the company. Others will form an opinion of your business based on what your staff are like. If they are drunken, throwing up and being rowdy, then it really doesn’t look good on your organisation.
Now, it’s up to you to decide how much is too much. You may be happy to give your employees free rein, but unless they know precisely what they can and can’t do, then you can’t expect them to conform. Having a policy shows that your business will operate consistently and shows that employees will all be treated the same in the event of an issue.
You may not realise that the company can be held “vicariously liable” for its employees’ actions in the course of their employment. Legal test cases have decided that social events can be considered as being a part of employment. Even a leaving party can be seen as an extension of employment and so any bad behaviour on the part of the employee can lead to vicarious liability on the employer. Having a policy shows that you as a company have taken reasonable steps to ensure that your employees behave well and will therefore offer you a defence in any case where an employee acts criminally and where you, their employer, is deemed vicariously liable for their behaviour.
What should your social events policy include?
In your social events policy, you can lay out what events are included, what behaviour you deem to be unacceptable and what the consequences for it will be.
What events are included?
Typically, you should cover any work-related events where a staff member is representing the company. Business lunches and meetings, office parties, training courses, conferences, business trips, and incentive trips would typically all be included.
What behaviour is unacceptable?
You should consider covering all of the following:
The consumption of alcohol. Moderate drinking of alcohol may be acceptable, but perhaps excessive consumption will not be encouraged, nor tolerated.
Use of illegal drugs. It would be normal for the taking of drugs to be forbidden.
Swearing and lewd language. You may want to deem this as unacceptable.
Fighting, aggressive or violent behaviour. It’s a given that you would not want this sort of behaviour at a work social event.
Adherence to all the company’s other policies. You should clearly state that in taking part in work social events, employees need to also adhere to the company’s other policiies, such as those covering workplace harassment and bullying,
Criminal behaviour. Many social event policies will state that employees should not engage in any illegal behaviour, and in particular, because lots of social events involve alcohol, you may want to specifically mention that drinking and driving is not permitted.
Confidential corporate information. Mentioning that staff should not disclose confidential corporate information is particularly relevant if your staff are expected to attend industry social events where competitors may be present.
Any other behaviour. Don’t forget to include a section stating that the company will not tolerate any other behaviour that it deems might bring its name into disrepute.
Finally, you may want to include in your policy some wording about what is expected the day after the event. For example, that you expect staff to arrive for work on time and to not take leave unless it was previously agreed.
What action will be taken in the event of any breaches of the policy?
It is likely that you will want for any behaviour that breaches your code to result in disciplinary action. So make sure to include this and to state that any breaches will trigger your company’s disciplinary and/or grievance procedure.
Creating a policy that covers social events is vital for protecting your company. And also for ensuring that your staff have an enjoyable, but safe, time. Do you have a policy? Does yours cover any other aspects? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.