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OMG its a party FFS

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Additionally, an employer’s own actions may constitute discrimination because some employees may feel that they have been treated less favourably than others if their particular needs are not properly catered for. For example, employees of particular religions may have certain dietary requirements and/or require alternatives to alcohol. Others, such as those with disabilities, may need certain arrangements to be made in terms of access or facilities at the event venue. If an employer fails to address these points it will likely be exposed to discrimination claims. Additionally, employers must ensure that the event is all-inclusive. This includes employees on long-term sickness leave or on maternity leave who may not have received internal emails/notices inviting them to the party. Employers should ensure that such employees are not left out or treated less favourably than others, by making sure that they are invited to the event and special arrangements are made in terms of access and facilities if necessary. Furthermore, employers should ensure that any entertainment, such as comedians, will not be offensive to any attendees. DISCIPLINARY AND GRIEVANCES

SOCIAL MEDIA A more recent consideration is the use of social media at, or in relation to, work social events. Particular problems may arise where pictures or comments relating to the event are posted online which may either damage the employer’s reputation or constitute harassment/discrimination of employees for which the employer may be held responsible. The key thing for an employer here is not to act disproportionately since not every online post will cause damage to the employer or amount to harassment. However, those that do should be dealt with in the same manner as any other act of misconduct.

Provided the misconduct is dealt with reasonably and consistently, is investigated thoroughly and the correct procedures are followed, there is no reason why the employer cannot treat offensive or damaging online posts as acts of gross misconduct. Employers should of course also ensure that they handle correctly any grievances that arise from the posts. Reminding employees regularly (and in particular before the event takes place) of what would be considered unacceptable in relation to online posts and the use of social media will hopefully reduce the likelihood of problems arising. Additionally, it will leave employees in no doubt as to the consequences of such behaviour if it does occur. As well as potentially amounting to gross misconduct on the grounds of being offensive/discriminatory to fellow employees, or of causing damage to the employer’s reputation, inappropriate online comments may also amount to breaches of the employers Internet or computer misuse policies, especially if the comments are made using the employer’s computers or network. Accordingly, employers should ensure that such policies are up to date and contain provisions covering the inappropriate use of social media. LICENSING Generally, a private party with no charge being made for alcoholic drinks or entry is unlikely to require a licence for alcohol or entertainment. However, where alcohol is sold on unlicensed business premises or charges are made for entry (ie ticketed events) a Temporary Event Notice may need to be applied for from the local council’s licensing authority. If music is played at the event copyright licences may be required from the Performing Rights Society (http://www.prsformusic.com) and Phonographic Performance Ltd (http://www.ppluk.com). Employers may wish to check with the organisations prior to the event to find out whether these licences are required. CONCLUSION The important thing for employers to remember is that the vast majority of work parties will be free from any of the potential problems outlined above. However, by taking the time to consider the issues hopefully employers will be able to plan ahead for dealing with those occasions when things don’t turn out quite as expected.

Erotic Trade Only November 2012

Unfortunately, as most employers will be aware, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to an increase in unacceptable behaviour by employees. There is likely to be a greater risk of misconduct at a Christmas party. Accordingly, it is sensible for employers to have clear procedures in place to deal with such conduct if it occurs. This is also another reason why it is important for employers to remind employees of what constitutes unacceptable conduct and the potential consequences of such behaviour in advance of a work social event. That way, employees can be left in no doubt as to what will happen should they behave inappropriately. Employers should be consistent with how they deal with misconduct arising from the party. As always, any alleged misconduct should be investigated thoroughly and the disciplinary process handled in accordance with the ACAS Code on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (http://www.acas.org.uk /index.aspx?articleid=2174) and the employer’s own disciplinary policy. Employers should not overlook acts of misconduct simply because they took place at a party, as it would face difficulties and be accused of inconsistency in the future if it disciplined another employee for similar misconduct which took place in the workplace. A common disciplinary issue arising from parties is employees failing to attend

work or arriving late the next day due to the effects of alcohol. This is therefore a point that should be included in any discussion on unacceptable conduct (and the consequences) that takes place prior to the event. Any grievances arising out of the party should be dealt with in the same way as any other grievance. Such grievances should not be downplayed or ignored because the acts complained of occurred at a party or away from the normal workplace. Again, like disciplinary proceedings, grievances should be handled in accordance with the ACAS Code and the employer’s own grievance policy. Because alcohol is likely to play a role in misconduct arising out of a work party, it may therefore be appropriate to limit the amount of alcohol provided to employees, especially where the alcohol is free, and to remind employees prior to the event of the need to drink responsibly.

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ETO November 2012