The staff Christmas party – could you be fired for your behaviour?

The annual company Christmas do is usually seen as a fun event where you can let your hair down and enjoy a night-off with your bosses and colleagues.

Whether you all go to the pub for a few drinks, sit down for a boozy meal or take to the dancefloor for a full-on party at a classy venue, the office party should be a laugh and a chance to enjoy time away from the rigours of work with fellow employees.

But, have a few too many and your actions could actually get you in trouble - even to the extent of being fired.

Employment solicitor Mark Serby explains legally what your rights are and the legal reason you could be fired for your behaviour.

He said: "Bad behaviour by employees during, or even after, a Christmas party could mean your employer can take disciplinary action.

“Conduct at a Christmas party, even if the event was held off-site, can be treated as if it was carried out at the workplace itself.

"Bad behaviour, such as abusive language or sexual harassment, is likely to fall within the ‘course of employment’ and can be treated as if the conduct was committed whilst at work.

"What is most important in these circumstances is where the employer becomes aware of bad behaviour committed during such events, they need to act quickly without delay and conduct a proper process in accordance with the company’s disciplinary procedure.

"An employer is ultimately responsible for the actions of its employees at a Christmas party, just as they are responsible for the actions of their employees in the workplace.

"It is also important to remember that an employer can be vicariously liable for the acts of their employees, and, as a result, an employer can be held liable for acts of sexual harassment by their employees during Christmas parties.”

What if a brawl takes place at the party?

Mark added: "Fighting constitutes gross misconduct, which should be dealt with formally under the company’s disciplinary procedures.

"Although fighting will most likely justify dismissal, it is key that employers carry out a thorough investigation. In recent cases, a failure to identify who threw the first punch, and resulting inconsistent treatment of those involved, has led to findings of unfair dismissal.

"It is important to take pre-emptive action to ensure that employees are aware of their obligations prior to the event. Employers do not want to spoil the party, they want everyone to enjoy themselves.

“That way, the employer limits their exposure to any unauthorised conduct which an employee may then go on to commit.

“The best advice is go, have a good time and treat people with respect. Then everyone has a good time. Happy Christmas.”

For further employment advice contact Mark Serby on 0114 224 2048 or at

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