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    The Myths of Christmas – True or False?

    Published on December 9th, 2022 | by Sophie West

    1. An employee can be disciplined for refusing to attend the Christmas party

    If the function is arranged during normal working hours or the terms of employment say they will attend such functions, then to refuse raises the question “is the employee refusing a reasonable, lawful request of their employer? If so, then it could be a disciplinary matter*

    If outside of working hours and not within the employee’s terms of employment, then the myth is false.

    * should the employee have a lawful reason, then no action should be taken. Furthermore, how would you regard an employer who required attendance at the Christmas party?

    2. It is compulsory to take part in Secret Santa at work

    False. Secret Santa is not a compulsory workplace requirement generally.

    3. If it snows, an employee does not have to attend work

    False. If an employee should be at work, they should make a reasonable attempt to attend work whatever the weather. If the weather is bad, then the employee needs to contact work to see what the employer wants them to do. Only if a statutory agency instructs people to stay at home could an employee remain at home BUT they should still liaise with their employer.

    4. An employer can stop an employee from taking leave in December

    True, as long as it is stipulated in the contract or handbook. This sort of term is common in the retail sector where December is a very important month for business.

    5. An employee can be disciplined if they get drunk at their Christmas party, on a Friday evening,  and verbally abuse a waiter.

    True, the employer can potentially discipline the employee as long as the incident is sufficiently linked to work. So, if the party was arranged through work and/or funded by the employer, then the party would be seen as an extension of the workplace and the rules on conduct would apply.

    6. Companies can’t have a free bar at their Christmas party as it is illegal.

    False. An employer can of course provide free alcohol if they wish to do so. But by providing a free bar the employer is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the employees in attendance. Where incidents take place at a work event as a result of over indulgence, it can be difficult to uphold company policies if disciplinary action is required to be taken.

    Having said that, a gentle reminder to staff that they are responsible for drinking in moderation may be all that is needed. In addition, employers should ensure there is plenty of water and soft drinks available and could consider having drinks tokens or a limit on the free bar to minimise people drinking to excess. It is sensible to have a few responsible senior individuals watching out for employees drinking to excess. Finally, a Company policy on work related social events would be useful to have and to remind employees of prior to any function.

    7. An employer can make an employee work on a bank holiday?

    True. There is no statutory right to time off during bank holidays. This will depend on what the contractual arrangements are for bank holiday working.  In addition, there is no statutory requirement to pay staff extra for bank holiday working, but employers should follow contractual terms or custom and practice regarding pay rates.

    8. An employee cannot be sacked if they are off sick

    False. An employee can be dismissed whilst off sick BUT the employer may be required to follow certain processes to ensure the dismissal is lawful.

    9. An employer can be sued by an employee for unfair dismissal at any time

    False, they cannot. To pursue unfair dismissal an employee must have at least 2 years’ service and have left employment either by having resigned or being dismissed.

    10. The laws on sex discrimination only apply to women

    False. The law in this area applies to both sexes equally but the vast majority of claims are brought by women.


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