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Protecting your practice from Christmas party mishaps



The festive season is almost upon us, which means it’s nearly time to deck the halls and celebrate with colleagues. While the festive spirit is undoubtedly infectious, it's crucial to be mindful of potential pitfalls that could arise during Christmas parties.


At Buxton Coates, a leading dental HR and employment law firm, we understand the importance of protecting your practice from any unforeseen issues that may emerge during these joyous occasions.


Understanding the legal landscape

Contrary to popular belief, Christmas parties are not exempt from employment legislation. As a practice owner, it's essential to recognise that you hold responsibility for events that occur 'in the course of employment,' extending to social gatherings like Christmas parties.


This legal principle was underscored in the noteworthy case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment [2018], where a severe injury during a Christmas party extension prompted a discussion about business matters.


January often brings a surge in claims related to physical altercations, inappropriate behaviour, or post-party absenteeism. The law considers work-related events as an extension of the workplace, making practice owners vicariously liable for any incidents during these festivities.


Common issues and potential liabilities

As an employment and HR lawyer, we know that many claims arise from offensive language and potentially discriminatory behaviour, which are often exacerbated by the consumption of alcohol. Even in the virtual realm, with the rise of online celebrations, employers can be held accountable for inappropriate verbal comments made during digital gatherings on platforms like Teams or Zoom.


To navigate these potential pitfalls, it's crucial for practice owners to implement preventive measures and be proactive in addressing these challenges.


Proactive measures for safeguarding your practice

  • Comprehensive training: ensure that all staff members undergo thorough equality and diversity training. This not only promotes a respectful and inclusive workplace culture but also equips your team with the awareness needed to avoid potential pitfalls during social events.

  • Establish a robust Christmas party policy: at Buxton Coates, we recommend developing a comprehensive Christmas party policy tailored to your practice. This should include guidelines on acceptable behaviour, alcohol consumption, and the consequences of any misconduct. By setting clear expectations, you create a framework that minimises risks and fosters a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.

  • Legal consultation: seek legal advice to ensure your policies align with current employment legislation. Buxton Coates specialises in dental HR and employment law, providing tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of dental practices.

  • Virtual party considerations: if opting for a virtual celebration, be aware that the virtual realm is not exempt from potential liabilities. Encourage professional conduct during online gatherings, and clearly communicate expectations to your team.

Buxton Coates's expertise

To assist dental practices in fortifying themselves against Christmas party mishaps, Buxton Coates has crafted a detailed Christmas party policy. This document is designed to cover various scenarios and can be customised to suit the specific needs of your practice. Practice owners can obtain a copy by reaching out to us at sarah.buxton@buxtoncoates.com.


Whilst Christmas parties are an excellent way to celebrate the achievements of the year, it's essential to approach them with a proactive mindset. By implementing preventative measures, establishing clear policies, and seeking legal guidance when needed, you can safeguard your practice from potential mishaps, ensuring a festive and stress-free celebration for all. Buxton Coates is here to support you in creating a holiday season that is not only joyful but also legally sound for your dental practice.


Keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of the Buxton Coates podcast in the coming days - we’ll be covering this issue in depth, and arming you with all the facts to protect yourself and your practice during the Christmas party season.


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