At this time of year many businesses look at having an office party, but there are always concerns about just what will happen at these parties and to what extent the company is responsible.

There are always risks when you put people together in any form of gathering which increase when it is a social gathering and increase further if alcohol is served. Where this is a company organised event the company can be held liable for the activities of its employees if problems were reasonably foreseeable and the company has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent them. Drunken behaviour at a party where the company is providing alcohol is predictable so you need to take steps to manage this and ensure that your employees know what is expected of them. Send a memo round to all staff reminding them that as this is a company function they are expected to behave in an appropriate manner and that the company has authority to deal with any issues that occur at that event. Set out that any unacceptable behaviour, including breaches of the bullying and harassment procedures, will be subject to the company disciplinary procedure in the same way as if they occurred during normal working hours.

You should actively encourage responsible drinking. Try to limit the amount of free alcohol available to each person and ensure that bar staff are instructed to refuse to serve alcohol where appropriate. Consider allowing unlimited soft drinks to all employees but limit any free alcohol to a responsible level. It shouldn’t be necessary for your staff to get drunk in order to enjoy themselves.

While it may not be overly popular with your managers, consider having designated non-drinkers from the management team who will be responsible for dealing with any issues that occur at the party before they get out of hand. It is also worth reminding all members of staff with supervisory or management responsibilities of the dangers of getting into compromising situations with junior staff members.

Remember the dangers of anyone drinking and driving and it is worth reminding all workers of the obligation not to drink and drive. It is important to stress that anyone who drinks and drives in a company vehicle will be subject to disciplinary proceedings.

You will also need to deal with the added issue of people who overindulge at the party and then are inexplicably struck down with a totally unforeseen malady the next day and are not able to work. Clearly set out to all staff that any inability to attend work due to self inflicted illness will be treated as a conduct issue. However, by far the safest way to minimise this problem is to try and hold any party on a day when most if not all of your staff will not be required to work the following day.

If you need any more advice on how to prevent, or deal with issues that stem from a Christmas party then please contact our advice line on 0844 892 2772.