News & Insights: Licensing

Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Fines!

7 December 2022

Our Commercial Director, Seamus McGranaghan, recently had the following article published in LCN Magazine concerning the possible pitfalls of holding an office Christmas party…


Avoid unwanted hefty fines by following O’Reilly Stewarts Guide to a Christmas Party!

With the enactment of the Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2021, Christmas parties may be at a higher risk of causing difficulties for employers. The removal of Sunday restrictions, the extension of drinking-up time and the further additional hours for pubs and hotels will allow for jolly celebrations, however, employers should be cautious that the festivities must remain professional. The law is clear that the work Christmas party is an extension of the workplace, making employers vicariously liable for their own and their employees’ actions.

To avoid drunkenness and misconduct being the recipe for a Christmas legal hangover, O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors set out their top tips for employers and employees to follow when organising or attending a Christmas party:

  1. Implement a party policy. Ensure that employees are aware that this is a work event and there is an acceptable standard of behaviour expected from all staff.
  2. Identify any potential hazards, especially for older members of staff or those with a physical impairment.
  3. Invoke disciplinary and grievance policies to mitigate the risk of bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Remember, being drunk is not a sufficient excuse!
  4. Limit alcohol intake. Consider the possible repercussions of an open bar. Employees may begin to take banter or gossip too far, causing offence to other members of staff.
  5. Do not engage in lewd horseplay or unwanted touching of any sort. This is a type of sexual harassment and can result in summary dismissal. Remember, you must face your boss/employees in work after this event!
  6. Keep a watchful eye on junior staff and anyone under 18. Facilitating underage drinking is a serious offence for employers.
  7. Watch out for drink driving. This should be considered when going home from the party but also when travelling into work the following morning. “Morning after” offences now account for over 20% of driving under the influence of alcohol offences according to the Department for Transport.
  8. Employers owe a duty of care to employees. Consider helping drunk employees to sober up or organising suitable transport home for them.
  9. Reduce expectations the following morning in work. It is only reasonable to expect a decline in productivity, punctuality, and efficiency.
  10. Leave the mistletoe at home.

Follow the above measures to allow all employees to unwind and socialise with colleagues in a safe and professional manner.

Merry Christmas!


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