It might still be October, but the fact remains many of us have already uttered the dreaded C-word more than once in recent weeks, as Christmas fast approaches. Recent events in employment law relating to the equally terrifying work-do (regardless of the reason) unfortunately makes for some potentially horrific reading.
For those of you not already aware, the Court of Appeal recently heard the case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Limited and established that an employer could potentially be held liable for an injury caused to an employee during an impromptu work after-party.
In this particular case the Claimant, who was a Sales Manager for Northampton Recruitment Limited, attended a work’s Christmas do, without incident. However, once this party ended, a number of guests, including the Claimant, decided to move to a local venue for further drinks. The important thing to be aware of here is that the drinks supplied were mainly paid for by the company in question, as were the taxis which transported guests from the original venue to the second one.
As unfortunately can happen all too often in such situations an argument broke out between the Claimant and the company’s Managing Director. This was not a personal disagreement, but was in relation to ongoing work matters.
Rather than sorting their differences out quietly, the Managing Director allegedly called over other employees of the Company, and exclaimed that he was in charge and would do what he wanted. It was at this point that the Claimant challenged the Managing Director about his behaviour, whereupon the Managing Director punched him twice, with the second assault causing the Claimant to sustain a serious brain injury.
The Court of Appeal found that whilst the incident too place outside of work time, and not on company property, at the time of the incident the Managing Director was acting in his capacity as the Company’s most senior employee.
Whilst it had been suggested that as this event had taken place after the Christmas party, and therefore occurred during everyone’s “down” time, the Court of Appeal still deemed it to be a work organised event as it was attending by most of the Company’s employees, and the Company had paid for taxis and drinks.
As a result there was sufficient connection between the Managing Director’s wrongful conduct and his role within the Company to render it vicarious liable for its actions. The Company was therefore responsible for paying compensation to the employee.
Clearly this is a tragic, though rare event. However, this decision is a timely reminder to employers as the festive season fast approaches that the acts of employees outside the workplace (even during impromptu after-parties as opposed to official ones) can still result in a financial liability for the business.
Now is a good time to review your policies and procedures in preparation for the festive period. Remember, if you need any assistance and/or advice, the team at People Matters are here to help.
We are People Matters, because your people matter (and not just at Christmas)!