Legal advice

'Tis the season to party - sensibly

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

'Tis the season to party - sensibly

Related tags: Staff, Drug addiction

The busiest time of the year for the pub trade is fast approaching and no doubt you have spent the past few weeks (or maybe months) planning your Christmas trading.

While it can be a busy and stressful time, it is also important to take some time to relax and let your hair down, and what better way to end the festive period than with a staff party?

Though parties are a great opportunity to thank staff for their hard work, it is important to ensure that certain rules of the workplace extend to staff social events as employers can be liable for acts of employees “performed in the course of employment”.

Here are our tips for a fun and trouble-free festive party:

  • If you are holding the staff party in one of your premises, consider the licensing implications. If you are giving away free alcohol up to a certain limit and then expecting staff to pay, you will need to ensure you are correctly licensed. If payment for the alcohol is given at a later time or the next day, this is still a sale of alcohol and needs to take place within licensed hours. Regardless of whether you are giving away alcohol or plan to charge for it, consider offering food as a way to mitigate intoxication.
  • If you are decorating the venue of your staff Christmas party you will need to carry out a risk assessment, particularly if the decorations involve lighting or candles. Considering the location of the decorations, in particular those which may pose a fire hazard, is particularly important and as long as this is done you should be compliant with health and safety and fire legislation. Be aware that your insurance policy may not cover damage caused by untested electrical equipment so it is important to ensure that decorations such as tree lights are switched off before going home.
  • Discuss the standards of behaviour you expect from your staff during the party. Although you will not wish to appear Scrooge-like in imposing lots of rules, a lightly worded policy or memo could go a long way to ensure that staff are clear on any behaviour which will not be tolerated. The staff party is an extension of the work environment and any harassment or inappropriate behaviour should be dealt with in the same way as it would be within the workplace. The same goes for any illegal drug use. It is an offence for an employer to knowingly permit or even to ignore the use, production or supply of any controlled drugs taking place on their premises and if you are holding the party in one of your pubs or bars, your licence could be subject to a review as a result of drug use at the premises.
  • Consider how your staff will get home from the party. Talk to them about their transportation plans and remember that you owe staff a duty of care. You may wish to consider providing taxis, minibuses or coaches to transport staff home, or at the very least encourage staff to plan their journey home in advance. It is also important to be vigilant to ensure that staff are not encouraged to drink and drive.

Related topics: Licensing law

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