The Importance of Avoiding Work-Related Conversations at the Christmas Party
On Day 3 of our Christmas Employment Series, we continue to focus on the potential Employment issues surrounding the annual Christmas party.
At parties there can be a tendency for employees to end up saying things they would normally be too scared to discuss. The confidence to do so can arise because of the influence of alcohol, because they are physically away from the workplace, or a bit of both.
This can lead to difficult interactions for supervisors when employees want to discuss things like promotions, pay rises or performance issues. Given the difficulty of these interactions and possibly in an attempt to maintain the festive spirit, supervisors can end up inadvertently making unworkable promises to employees.
An example of this situation is shown in the case of Judge -v- Crown Leisure Limited, which progressed to the Court of Appeal. Mr Judge claimed that at the Christmas party, a director promised him a pay rise within two years, and later attempted to rely on this promise to secure a pay increase. Crown Leisure rejected this request, which led to Mr Judge resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal.
Crown Leisure were able to successfully defend the claim on the basis that the director’s words were too vague and uncertain to constitute a binding contractual agreement. Whilst this is a favourable result for employers, the need to defend a claim in the Court of Appeal is not a situation an employer wants to find itself in.
In advance of any work event, it will be best practice for employers to warn supervisors that these types of conversations must be avoided. If an employee does bring up topics such as promotions, pay rises or performance, they should be reminded that the appropriate time for these conversations is instead within working hours.
Tomorrow, in Day 4 of our series, we discuss how to minimise the risk of harassment, bullying and discrimination complaints at the Christmas Party.