Christmas is fast approaching and with it, the office Christmas party.

It is widely acknowledged that an office Christmas party has advantages. They are often morale boosting and provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate success, network and mingle with co-workers you don’t get to see on a day to day basis.

However, whenever employees let off steam there are likely to be fallouts.

This article looks at how you can protect yourself from legal disputes arising, and if they do occur, help manage a potential hangover from hell.

Open bar means potential trouble

While you would be seen as the best boss in the world at the start, once people have had their limit and then some, the chances of you having to stop a fight, dry tears or send someone home early in a taxi cradling a bin is likely to be increased substantially.

A set amount of drinks vouchers is one way to ensure that you are still happy for people to enjoy themselves, but without inviting risk.

Clear Promotion and Pay Structure Policies

Allegations regarding false pay rise promises and female colleagues being denied a promotion due to rebuffing a senior staff member’s unwanted advances are common tribunal trends after the office Christmas party. If a company has clear guidelines of how promotions are given, use a fair recruitment process and implement clear pay structures this will help minimise the risk of such claims.

Clear Grievance Policy

Having a clear grievance process that an employee can follow should they feel they have been a victim of excess merriment will help you deal with the aftermath.

Train Managers on the Grievance Process and Conduct

Training managers to deal with grievances appropriately can help resolve matters quickly and hopefully stop conflicts escalating to a legal dispute. Many grievances can often be settled informally if quick action is taken. Training managers to find compromises between disgruntled staff, or giving managers the confidence to tackle poor conduct can save small businesses money in the long run.

Have a separate Sexual Harassment Policy

Given recent events widely reported in the news regarding the Weinstein allegations, more emphasis is being placed on the employer’s responsibility to protect employees from unwanted sexual harassment.

Having a Sexual Harassment Policy will emphasise how seriously you take any such matters, detailing the consequences should an employee be guilty of such action while representing the company.

On the clock

Which leads on to reminding employees before the party that they are still on the clock and anyone acting in an inappropriate way will be dealt with as though they are still in the office.


Having an annual Christmas party can help employees feel valued and boost morale. Many employers wrongly shy away from the risk of having a Christmas party and miss out on the chance to energise staff.

Being prepared, controlling the merriment and having strong policies in place will help protect employers from legal action.

For more ideas on managing the Christmas party from the business community, check out the latest Community Chest.

If you need any support on a grievance or issue regarding the upcoming Christmas party contact Opsium.