Ask the Expert Seasonal festivities: Is it too soon to say the ‘C’ word? Ask the Expert Seasonal festivities: Is it too soon to say the ‘C’ word?

Ask the Expert Seasonal festivities: Is it too soon to say the ‘C’ word?
16 Nov 2017

Q. It may seem a bit early in the year, but I’ve already been tasked with arranging the payroll department’s Christmas party. Over the last few years, they have been ‘eventful’ to say the least and so I want to ensure that I am approaching the situation correctly. Do you have any tips?

While it is possibly best not to know what ‘eventful’ means, I am sure your company is not alone in this, which makes it admirable that you have asked the question in the first place. Many arrangers of Christmas parties neglect to recognise what an employment law nightmare they can turn out to be.

The first point to consider is an employer’s duty of care to their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (and Northern Ireland 1978 Order). This Act places a general duty of care on employers and employees alike and means that:

• Employers have a duty of care to employees in the course of their employment, which extends outside of the workplace when an organised function is arranged by reason of employment. In other words, a party arranged by an employer amounts to an extension of the workplace environment. The Health and Safety Executive’s website provides good guidance that covers most of the UK, but similar guidance is also available on the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland’s website too.

• Employees are required to take reasonable care of their own health and safety while at work as well as that of any other person who may be affected by their activities. As above, a party arranged by an employer is considered to be an extension of the workplace environment and so if attending it, employees have a similar duty of care to if they were at work.

But it is probably in the area of alcohol consumption that you need to be most careful. As a result, it is worth pointing out the drinkdriving limits that apply in the UK.

Note that the Scotland Act 2012 amended the primary devolution legislation in that country (the 1998 Act) in order to make changes to its drink-driving limits via the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit) (Scotland) Regulations 2014. They came into effect on 5 December 2014 and brought Scotland more into line with other European countries.

It is probably in the area of alcohol consumption that you need to be most careful.”

Drink-driving limits

• Breath - 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath (22 in Scotland);
• Blood - 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood (50 in Scotland);
• Urine - 107 milligrammes per 100 milligrammes of urine (67 in Scotland).

But it is also worth bearing in mind that, aside from the actual beverage itself, the amount of alcohol an individual needs to drink to push them over the limit varies from one person to another depending on factors such as:

• Age;
• Gender;
• Ethnicity;
• Weight;
• Metabolism; and
• Stress levels at the time of drinking.

This means you have been tasked with an issue that requires considerable thought. Payroll professionals deserve a good party in recognition of all the hard work they do, but both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure that any risks are mitigated. As a result, if things go wrong, the work you put in now will demonstrate that you recognised the employer’s duty of care and took steps to reduce your risk of liability.

So it seems that it was not too early to mention to ‘C’ word after all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that duty of care obligations are not just for Christmas - they are for life.

 

Ian Holloway, head of legislation and compliance, Cintra HR and Payroll Services, explores the legal implications of the annual employee Christmas party.

Q. It may seem a bit early in the year, but I’ve already been tasked with arranging the payroll department’s Christmas party. Over the last few years, they have been ‘eventful’ to say the least and so I want to ensure that I am approaching the situation correctly. Do you have any tips?

While it is possibly best not to know what ‘eventful’ means, I am sure your company is not alone in this, which makes it admirable that you have asked the question in the first place. Many arrangers of Christmas parties neglect to recognise what an employment law nightmare they can turn out to be.

The first point to consider is an employer’s duty of care to their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (and Northern Ireland 1978 Order). This Act places a general duty of care on employers and employees alike and means that:

• Employers have a duty of care to employees in the course of their employment, which extends outside of the workplace when an organised function is arranged by reason of employment. In other words, a party arranged by an employer amounts to an extension of the workplace environment. The Health and Safety Executive’s website provides good guidance that covers most of the UK, but similar guidance is also available on the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland’s website too.

• Employees are required to take reasonable care of their own health and safety while at work as well as that of any other person who may be affected by their activities. As above, a party arranged by an employer is considered to be an extension of the workplace environment and so if attending it, employees have a similar duty of care to if they were at work.

But it is probably in the area of alcohol consumption that you need to be most careful. As a result, it is worth pointing out the drinkdriving limits that apply in the UK.

Note that the Scotland Act 2012 amended the primary devolution legislation in that country (the 1998 Act) in order to make changes to its drink-driving limits via the Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit) (Scotland) Regulations 2014. They came into effect on 5 December 2014 and brought Scotland more into line with other European countries.

It is probably in the area of alcohol consumption that you need to be most careful.”

Drink-driving limits

• Breath - 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath (22 in Scotland);
• Blood - 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood (50 in Scotland);
• Urine - 107 milligrammes per 100 milligrammes of urine (67 in Scotland).

But it is also worth bearing in mind that, aside from the actual beverage itself, the amount of alcohol an individual needs to drink to push them over the limit varies from one person to another depending on factors such as:

• Age;
• Gender;
• Ethnicity;
• Weight;
• Metabolism; and
• Stress levels at the time of drinking.

This means you have been tasked with an issue that requires considerable thought. Payroll professionals deserve a good party in recognition of all the hard work they do, but both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure that any risks are mitigated. As a result, if things go wrong, the work you put in now will demonstrate that you recognised the employer’s duty of care and took steps to reduce your risk of liability.

So it seems that it was not too early to mention to ‘C’ word after all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that duty of care obligations are not just for Christmas - they are for life.

 

Ian Holloway, head of legislation and compliance, Cintra HR and Payroll Services, explores the legal implications of the annual employee Christmas party.

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