Letting your hair down at the work Christmas party; when do you put your employer at risk?

In a well-timed judgment, the High Court in the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd earlier this month made a ruling regarding the responsibility of employers for actions undertaken during a work Christmas party. In 2011, there was an assault leading to serious injury following a disagreement between the managing director and an employee.  The issue for the Court was whether, under the concept of vicarious liability, the managing director’s actions could be attributed to the company.

Party Hat

What is vicarious liability?

The concept of vicarious liability means that employers can be liable for actions of their employees when those actions are regarded as being within the ‘course and scope of their employment’. The potential scope for employer liability can be vast, due to the fact that the wrongful conduct does not need to be directly or expressly authorised by the employee.

On the facts of the case, the employer was not liable for the injury caused by the managing director due to the fact that the action occurred after the official Christmas party during a post-event drinking session. Had, however, it occurred at the main event, the outcome may have been very different.  The judge reasoned that once the organised event had concluded, the choice of some employees to continue their evening was not a ‘seamless extension of the Christmas party’.

The full judgment can be found by following this link: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2016/3104.html

This case serves as a good reminder that at Christmas, there is the potential for things to get out of hand. FCBMB Solicitors have produced some handy advice on how to avoid Christmas spirit spiralling out of control: http://www.fbcmb.co.uk/why-choose-us/news/our-news/article/5757/as-office-workers-gear-up-for-the-festive-party-season

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