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
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
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.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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