The Office Christmas Party: Jingle Bells or Alarm Bells??

office-partyMary Gavin, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Law department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors has provided us with this guest blog on some steps employers should take to ensure an incident-free Christmas party _____________________________________________________________________________________

As the festive season fast approaches, many employers and employees look forward to enjoying a Christmas dinner with colleagues ……at the expense of the boss!

Most parties pass off without incident, (perhaps the odd blush) but others can have dramatic consequences which not only sour the party mood but can jeopardise an employee’s livelihood.
The relaxed atmosphere may prompt individuals to behave in a way which would never arise or be tolerated in the workplace. They may act inappropriately towards another colleague whether by unwanted advances or aggressive conduct. They may harass another colleague under the guise of “banter” or perhaps attend the workplace the following morning whilst still under the influence.

So, what can you do as an employer to prevent bad behaviour from your staff at the Christmas office party?

Prior to the office Christmas party, an employer should provide a clear policy on the standards of behaviour expected and what kinds of behaviour are unacceptable.  It may seem that reiterating that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated is stating the obvious however, the old adage of when “the drink’s in the wit’s out” couldn’t be more relevant at this time of year.  A reminder should be given in writing that instances of misconduct will not be tolerated at a work-related events and employees should be left in no doubt that such behaviour may lead to disciplinary action or potentially dismissal.

On the issue of alcohol, an employer should consider monitoring employees’ intake of alcohol not only if an individual appears to have had “one too many” but to ensure that the intended generosity is not used as an aggravating factor which the employee holds the employer responsible for.

No one wants to put a dampener on the festivities,  but employers should be aware that they can be held liable for the acts of their employees if an act is deemed to have been committed in the course of employment.   An office Christmas party is inextricably linked to employment so caution must be exercised.  Consideration should also be given to how individuals are getting home and appropriate advice or arrangements made.

The above is not an exhaustive guide as to the steps that can be taken to prevent employees from behaving inappropriately and it should be borne in mind that a potential Tribunal case will not only be brought against the perpetrator of the behaviour but also the employer.  Having a clear policy in place is evidence that reasonable steps were taken by an employer to prevent inappropriate behaviour from occurring.

Any employer is loath to turn a celebratory event which is ultimately an acknowledgment of employees’ hard work throughout the year into something where an employee could risk facing disciplinary sanctions!  But staff should be aware that they must conduct themselves at the same level of any work-related event. In short, just because it is a “party” it does not mean it is an exception to the usual policies and procedures that would apply in the workplace.

MGavinMary Gavin is an Associate with Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. If you have any queries in relation to any employment law matter she can be contacted on 90234901 or at mgavin@fhanna.co.uk

LIFE BITE: Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne gave false evidence in Divorce

apple-150579_1280Former Dragon’s Den’s star and entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne has failed in an attempt to prevent a newspaper from reporting allegations that he gave false evidence during his divorce in 2012.  

Last month, the Mail on Sunday claimed that during the course of his divorce proceedings, Mr Bannatyne had misrepresented the terms of a business agreement he had with Graham Armstrong, who ran one of his fitness companies, and had done so in an attempt to reduce the share of assets that his wife could claim in the divorce. The Dragon’s Den star had subsequently expressed “deep regret” and apologised for the way in which the business agreement had been misrepresented.

Mr Bannatyne took legal action to try and stop the newspaper from publishing these allegations, claiming that information about his divorce should be kept private. However the Judge ruled that there was a public interest in exposing Mr Bannatyne’s attempts to mislead a court even though he had apologised for doing so.

This is another in an increasingly long line of media stories involving husbands failing to provide full disclosure of their assets in divorce proceedings.   In all Court proceedings dealing with the division of assets on divorce, each spouse is legally required to provide the Court with full details of their entire financial position. This information is required to ensure that the Court and both parties are aware of the full extent of each other’s financial circumstances at the time a decision is being made as to how the matrimonial assets are to be divided.

If you would like any further information on this issue or any matter concerning divorce or division of matrimonial assets, please feel free to contact us here or leave us a message below.

The PSNI & Domestic Abuse Officers

PSNISergeant Joanne Eakin is a Domestic Abuse Officer with the Belfast Public Protection Unit within the PSNI.

Here, Joanne provides a guest blog telling us about the role of a Domestic Abuse Officer and how the PSNI deal with incidents of domestic abuse.

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The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) receives a report of a domestic incident on average every 18.4 minutes…. That is 78 domestic incidents per day.

This will increase on the run up to Christmas and the PSNI will soon be launching their Christmas Campaign to encourage victims of abuse to come forward.

How do the PSNI view domestic abuse?

The PSNI believe that domestic abuse should not be tolerated and that it is not acceptable in any shape or form in today’s society.

Therefore, they have specially trained officers who deal with those victims who are at a risk of serious harm due to the domestic abuse. I am one of those officers. We are called ‘Domestic Abuse Officers’ and work within the 5 Public Protection Units across the province. I cover the Belfast area and work from Antrim Road PSNI Station in Belfast which consists of 2 Sergeants and 10 Constables.

What do the PSNI class as domestic abuse?

The PSNI are fully aware that domestic abuse can include a range of behaviours and is not solely physical abuse which is a common misconception. Domestic abuse can involve any one of the following:-

  • Physical abuse – for example, being pushed, hit, kicked and beaten.
  • Emotional abuse – for example, being verbally abused and humiliated, constantly blamed, being put down in front of other people and being kept away from family and friends.
  • Financial abuse – for example, being left without money, having wages, benefits or pension being taken away from you or having to account for all your spending.
  • Sexual abuse – for example, being forced to watch or act out pornography, being talked to in a sexually degrading way, being sexually assaulted or raped.

Some abusers think domestic abuse is acceptable as they are married to the victim but that is not true. Some victims also do not realise they are being abused.

The important thing for any victim is to recognise is when it is happening to them and to accept that they are not to blame.

How can the PSNI help me if I am the victim of Domestic Abuse?

The PSNI and the various Domestic Abuse Teams throughout Northern Ireland are here to protect, help and support victims of domestic abuse in many different ways:-

  • Investigate – We guarantee to fully investigate any incident that has occurred and take action against the perpetrator if there is sufficient evidence.
  • Protect – We will protect you and your children from immediate or further harm and advise you in relation to criminal proceedings and police procedure.
  • Inform – We can provide information on local domestic abuse support agencies that can give emotional and practical assistance.

For non-emergency calls to the PSNI and general enquiries, call 101.

In the case of an emergency dial 999 or use the emergency text phone by texting 18000

Domestic Abuse is a serious offence which no one should have to suffer. If you are the victim of such abuse or know of someone who is suffering, please contact the PSNI for advice and assistance.

Sergeant Joanne Eakin│Domestic Abuse │Belfast Public Protection Unit

If you would like any further information on Domestic Abuse please contact us here or leave us your details below