Can disciplinary action be taken for an employees behaviour at a works party?

The Case study below is based on a question asked due to an employee’s behaviour at a works party?

Natasha, a Nursery Manager contacted the helpline to discuss Sam, a member of the team who had been with them for five years. Sam has been a good employee but had recently started acting very strangely.

The works Christmas party

Natasha organised a work Christmas party at a local restaurant, followed by drinks at a few bars, which was arranged for the last working day.

On the first day back to work in January, Natasha was approached by another member of the team, Ben, who informed her that a work colleague had spiked his drink with an ecstasy tablet. He mentioned that as soon as he noticed, he poured his drink away. As the night progressed, the group moved onto some other bars where the same work colleague tried to force an ecstasy tablet into his mouth.

Natasha was extremely concerned about what she was hearing particularly that she may have an employee at work that uses drugs.

Natasha wasn’t sure if there was anything she could do given the incident took place outside of work. She also wondered whether she should simply refer the matter to the police.

What were the Conduct issues?

Given that the evening was arranged for a work-related celebration, and that it was for employees of the business, it was safe to assume this type of conduct fell within the course of employment. The company’s code of conduct still applies during work events whether they are in the workplace or not. Spiking another work colleague’s drink and also forcing someone to take illegal drugs can be regarded as gross misconduct with the potential for dismissal.

With the support of the helpline, Natasha was guided through the process she needed to follow. The first step was for Natasha to carry out her own independent investigations, speaking to any witnesses and getting Sam’s side of the story.

She was advised by the helpline to leave the police out of the matter at this stage, as they may ask her to stop any investigations so that they can proceed with their own. It was important for Natasha to understand both sides of the story and see whether or not the allegation made by Ben was substantiated or not before she involved the police.

During the investigations, Sam admitted to the conduct in question. Natasha decided to discipline the employee, who was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct. Natasha referred the matter to the police after the disciplinary process was concluded.

While Natasha wanted her employees to enjoy themselves, have a good time and unwind, it was safe to expect appropriate behaviour from them. Natasha has since implemented a policy making clear the level of conduct expected while on work-related events on and off the company premises. This way her employees are aware of the level of conduct expected and know what the ramifications are if they behave improperly.

Don’t forget dot2dot members have access to Croner’s team of employment law experts through their Helpline to assist you with this subject or any other HR issue. Simply call them on 0844 561 8111.


jackie hyde