Work Christmas party coming up? Employers beware!

Work Christmas party coming up? Employers beware!

Whilst Christmas is a merry time of year with plenty of lunches, dinners and drinks, employers should exercise caution in this festive season.

If things turn sour during work events, including Christmas parties, employers will be vicariously liable (i.e. held responsible) for the actions of their employees.

The determining factor here is whether the actions of an employee are done in the course of their employment or in their personal capacity. Work Christmas parties are deemed to be an event taking place in the course of the employees’ employment, meaning that employers should be mindful of their potential liability.

The recent case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd, on which judgment was passed last month, demonstrates this. In this case, some staff members decided to move on to a hotel, after the work party, to continue drinking. At this stage, an altercation took place between one of the employees and a Director of the Company, which left the employee with serious brain damage.

The employee brought a claim against his employer for the actions of the Director. The key question was whether the Director acted in the course of his employment.

Due to the fact that the assault took place after the Christmas party and in a different location, it was held that the employer was not vicariously liable for the actions of the Director. The judgement however made it clear that the employer would have been held liable had the altercation taken place during the work party itself.

This case should serve as a reminder to employers that they are responsible for their employees during work events. Employers should maintain control to avoid potential liability that often arises at this festive time of year.

If you would like to speak to Jasmin Dhillon surrounding any of the matters highlighted in the article, or for any other issues related to employment law, please contact her on 01494 478 671 or email