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Staff Socials – Where does Employer Liability End

Many employers treat their employees to a summer or Christmas party as a means of thanking them for their efforts during the year. But does what happen at the Christmas Party stay at the Christmas party?

Wednesday 26th of July 2017 13:05

Many employers treat their employees to a summer or Christmas party as a means of thanking them for their efforts during the year. 

However, the discerning employer is often unaware that they may become liable for any wrong doings of their alcohol fueled employee, or that the actions can continue to be deemed to have occurred ‘in the course of employment’ when things happen at their staff party. Where the employer is held liable for the acts and omissions of its employees at work or “in the course of their employment” it is called vicarious liability.

In the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd, following a Christmas party organised by the recruitment company, a few staff members went off to a separate hotel (after the main event) to continue on with their festivities.  During a disagreement, a director of the company punched his manager, leaving the manager with severe brain damage.

The manager’s lawyers claimed that the recruitment company was responsible for the actions of the director because the assault took place “in the course of employment”.   However, in this case the tribunal found that because the actions took place at a private and separate event, given the main party had ended, that the company could not therefore be held vicariously liable.  However, the tribunal stated that had this happened during the main party then the company may have been held vicariously liable.   

Whilst each case is viewed on its merits, it is essential that an employer has an appropriate policy in place highlighting the expectations of the employer during any social event and should also ensure employees know how they can raise a grievance. 

Should you require further support or information with regard to managing grievances or implementing a policy for social events please do not hesitate to contact NGCAA.

 

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