The festive season is well and truly in full swing and it’s time to let your hair down and enjoy the annual Christmas event and festivities with your employers. It can be difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to festive antics with the risk that any ‘wild’ behaviour may be recorded and shared on social media.
Whether the party is in or out of the ‘home/office’ it should be treated as an extension of the workplace with both employers and employees conducting themselves appropriately.
However, as we know this is not always the case and an employer or employee can find themselves the subject of a variety of claims, including sexual harassment.
Do the normal rules of gross misconduct apply at a Christmas Party?
Yes they do. The work related festivities should be considered to be an extension of the workplace, so the same rules will apply. Generally speaking, an act of gross misconduct is potentially serious enough to fundamentally breach the contract between employer and employee, and justify summary dismissal.
In a normal working environment, employees would be aware that ‘punching your employer’ is likely to be a gross misconduct offence. At a work party event, the professional lines can often be blurred, usually fuelled by alcohol, which might even have been provided by the employer.
Common examples of Christmas party gross misconduct are serious insubordination, harassment, and damage to employer’s property. This list is not exhaustive and if there is an incident which is sufficiently closely connected to work, and will likely impact on the working situation, then it is likely that the employer will be able to start a disciplinary investigation regarding the matter.
If photos and/or videos taken without my knowledge or consent, who owns the images?
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that the author of a photograph is the person who creates it. The person who takes the photograph/video will own the copyright unless the photo/video was created by a person in the course of their employment. In this case the copyright will then be owned by the employer.
Can I have photos removed from social media or stop them being shared?
In UK law there is generally no right to privacy where an image/video is taken in a public place. In a case involving the model Naomi Campbell, the court determined that the publication of photographs taken in public would only be prevented if they were obviously private, or were offensive in some other way. This would include a person being caused humiliation or severe embarrassment. Most social media companies have policies in place that although the creator of the photo/video is the owner, once that photo/video is uploaded a license has been granted to that social media company to use or allow others to use that photo/video.
Due to the lack of privacy laws in the UK, the courts are generally relying upon decisions in previous cases for their findings. Publication of photographs can be prevented if they were commissioned to be taken (i.e. with permission of the subject) but were then used for an unauthorised purpose.
The author of the photo/video would need to delete the photo/video from their social media account for it to be removed. However, if the photo/video has been shared by another user it is unlikely that it can be removed.
Can I insist the photo/video is permanently deleted and how do I go about this?
If the photos/video belongs to an individual then being able to get photos/videos removed from social media is highly unlikely, especially if the photo/video has already been viewed/shared. The legal recourse available to prevent or remove photos/videos is by a court injunction, a court order for return or destruction, or damages by way of financial compensation.
However, if the photos/videos subsequently become the property of the employer, then with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation on the 25 May 2018, an individual has the ”right to be forgotten” and can request that any photos/videos in the employer’s possession are permanently deleted or removed.
The DOs and DON’Ts
Generally, Christmas parties should be an opportunity for employees to let their hair down and relax in a more social setting. It should not be forgotten, however, that what happens at the Christmas party does not always stay at the Christmas party.
DOs for Employers
Invite all employees to the party even if absent through sickness, maternity or paternity leave;
Remind employees of your expectations and be clear on what will be considered inappropriate behaviour;
Control the amount of free alcohol and make sure food and non-alcoholic drinks are also provided;
Be prepared to deal with any inappropriate behaviour in line with your employment policy and be consistent in how you apply the policy;
Avoid discussions about career prospects or remuneration with employees;
Consider nominating one parent or trusted colleague / friend to refrain from alcohol at the event in order to deal with any emergencies or incidents that arise.
DON’Ts for Employees
Forget you are effectively still ‘at work’ so conduct yourself accordingly;
Drink too much so that you do not know what you are doing;
Get involved in workplace gossip or ‘banter’ which could be offensive;
Try to discuss why you should have a pay rise with your employer;
Make any unwelcome advances, sexual or otherwise;
Become violent or aggressive.
Forget to enjoy the event!