Written by EMILY GENT
It’s one of our greatest work traditions – getting together for a few drinks to send-off a colleague who’s moving on. Most of the time a “leaving do” is just a good opportunity for an employer to wish a departing staff member well, while spending some less formal time with the rest of the team.
However, it can also be one of those occasions where the line between work and social life can become blurred. This leaves employers open to a number of potential pitfalls.
The key point for employers to bear in mind is that any social event organised by an employer is considered to be an ‘extension’ of the workplace. Employers must be aware that they can be held liable for any negligent conduct by themselves or their employees, even if it takes place out of hours, or in the pub rather than in the office. That’s especially important to remember after a few drinks – alcohol consumption is no excuse for poor behaviour such as unwelcome advances or displays of aggression.
Ultimately, a ‘leaving do’ or office drinks are to be enjoyed – and for the employer, taking simple steps to prepare beforehand can save embarrassment or worse the next morning. Here are our tips:
Set ground rules
Remind your staff of behaviour that is not acceptable and how this would be dealt with – make a list if necessary! This includes what shouldn’t be shared online. People are likely to take pictures and videos throughout the event, so refer to a social media policy to make sure employees are aware of expectations.
For employers, managers and staff alike, getting something off your chest may seem like a good idea while away from the workplace – but you might end up causing offence. In the worst cases, that could mean disciplinary action.
Limit alcohol if you can
If choosing to stay alcohol-free is out of the question, put a limit on the free bar to help prevent people going overboard. Too much alcohol means a greater likelihood of fights, accidents, inappropriate behaviour or incidents that might be seen as harassment.
Timing is everything
A leaving do doesn’t have to be an all-nighter – in fact for employers it’s probably best to set a time limit on attending the “official” event and consider leaving once that time is up. If those left behind choose to stay behind or go on elsewhere, make it clear that it’s their own choice and not part of the work event.
Take action if you need to
Follow up on poor behaviour if you need to – always at the appropriate level. Depending on the seriousness of the behaviour, this may just be a quiet word the next morning, or it may involve taking action by following the company disciplinary procedure. Being decisive demonstrates that such behaviour won’t be tolerated – in the office, in the pub, or in any other work-related context.