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Q: Our office parties are held in a local hotel where we provide a free bar and supper. Last time some employees got drunk, started a bit of horseplay and smashed some furniture. We paid the hotel for the damage and intended to take disciplinary action against the employees. However we have been told that, as the incident was not on company premises and not in company time, we cannot do this and instead should have left the employees to sort out the cost of the damage with the hotel. Is this true?
A: As this was an official company function it does not matter that it was held outside work hours and offsite; the employees misbehaved at work and normal disciplinary action should be taken against them. And as the hotel presumably was booked on behalf of the company, the company is liable for the damage. This suggests strongly that in future you do two things before any company functions take place.
First inform everybody who is to attend that they are required to behave themselves and that failure to do so will result in disciplinary action being taken against them. Second appoint a senior executive to take charge of the event. This person should watch out for potential trouble, and warn and take any appropriate action against anyone who begins to misbehave. If you provide a free bar you really are inviting drunkenness. Why not offer a free drink on arrival and let employees buy any subsequent drinks? You may find it reduces the incidence of drunkenness without in any way spoiling the evening.
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