25 Oct 2018 9:31 AM

An article in People Management on the devastating outcome of a disagreement at a company event is a timely reminder to businesses preparing for their Christmas Parties.

https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/recruiter-liable-party-fight-employee-brain-damage

This particular case turns on an exchange of views and an assault at a company’s Christmas Party.  The incident happened at around 3 am, long after ‘the main event’ had finished.  That’s OK then, not work related you may think; as did the High Court.  However, on appeal the nature of the exchange that led to the damaging assault was held to be work related and the company was therefore vicariously liable; Lady Justice Asplin said “Major chose to wear his metaphorical Managing Director’s hat to deliver a lecture to his subordinates”.

All cases turn on their own merits, but as part of the Christmas Party planning process, our advice is to send a clear and unequivocal communication along with the invitation.  Include a summary of the key points of all relevant company policy, details of where the policies can be read in their entirety and how matters of misconduct will be dealt with.  A statement may seek to pre-empt the potential for ‘after-parties’, thus establishing which parts of the planned event are deemed to be ‘work time’ or ‘work related’ and which parts will be in an employee’s own time and therefore, at which point conduct and unlawful behaviour will be neither within the company’s control, responsibility nor liability.

Would such a missive have resulted in a different outcome to the series of events at Northampton Recruitment’s Christmas party? 

We don’t know, but it just may have provided a defence from which Lady Asplin may have reached  a verdict of personal liability, rather than vicarious liability against the company.

If you would like guidance on best practice as you prepare for the Christmas Party season, please contact me, Rosemary Hedgecock.