Work Christmas parties are a wonderful way to bond with your colleagues away from the office - but they are fraught with danger.

With the booze flowing the chances of a professional fuax pas increase dramatically. From saying the wrong thing to making a fool of yourself, you could badly damage your reputation.

But what do the experts say about the risks associated with drunken work dos?

It turns, at a work bash, you are still technically on "company time".

This means that any embarrassing or careless thing you say or do, you are in fact doing on the job...

And while it might seem like an amusing, cringe-worthy story to tell your friends, it's not so funny when it leads to you facing disciplinary proceedings or even dismissal.

Let your hair down - but don't go too far...

Priya Cunningham, an employment lawyer at Watermans Solicitors, told the Daily Record : "The employer needs to bear in mind reputational damage to their business when considering an employee’s conduct on a night out.

“Bosses are also vicariously liable for their employees’ actions. If an employee assaults someone on a night out, leaving them with a life changing injury - such as brain damage - the employer may also be liable for their actions.

“It’s important to get advice from our employment law specialist if you’re facing the sack after your Christmas work doo."

So what if you do something silly on your Christmas work bash. Do you have a leg to stand on?

Once the dust settles, there could be consequences

Five things not to do at your work night out

Acts of violence

Sometimes employees with impeccable employment records, who show no sign of aggression at work can become violent after drinking. Likely to be classed as gross misconduct.

Serious health and safety violation

Leaving the office party drunk and forgetting to lock up could result in disciplinary action, or dismissal.

Anything illegal

It should go without saying that staff should not bring recreational drugs to a works night out, however in a relaxed setting away from the constraints of work some people forget this. This is likely to lead to instant dismissal.


Coming into work drunk from the night before could lead to dismissal, especially, if your job required you to drive or operate machinery.


Sneaking a consensual kiss under the mistletoe is fine, but groping and unwanted touching could be classed as sexual harassment. This could not only lead to criminal charges, but will probably get you sacked.

You don't want to look daft in front of your colleagues

So, can your boss just sack you then?

Mirror Money spoke to employment law specialist Philip Pepper, partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, to understand the rules surrounding "summary dismissal".

Most of the time, you can't just be sacked. You have an employment contract and that cuts both ways - giving you rights as well as responsibilities.

Normally if you're unfairly sacked, or aren't given enough warning, you can take your employer to court - or at least an employment tribunal.

But sometimes they can get away with it. Especially if you are found guilty of 'gross misconduct'.

"This is something so serious it goes outside of the contract, meaning you can be dismissed with immediate effect," Pepper told the Mirror.

Male office worker holding mistletoe above female colleague
Stealing a kiss is OK - so long as it's consensual of course...

What counts as gross misconduct?

Pepper explained that this varies from firm to firm, but there are a series of offences that almost always count.

These are:

  1. Physical violence or bullying
  2. Theft
  3. Unlawful discrimination
  4. Causing loss or damage through negligence
  5. Serious health and safety violations
  6. Serious incapacity at work due to alcohol or drugs
Friends toasting champagne at Christmas party
By the end of the night, someone might be in pain - or acute embarrassment

But I'm not in work!

You can be fired for committing an act of gross misconduct even if you're not at work, but there are conditions.

"It has to be within a work context," explained Pepper. This means a work Christmas party or event would count.

Offences outside work contexts can count too, if there are "legitimate implications for the business".

Pepper gave the example of someone getting into a fight while wearing work uniform, that was captured on CCTV and shown on the news.

However, if you're watching the football in a pub on the weekend, and are involved in a "fracas" with a colleague, that would not count as grounds for dismissal, Pepper added, although bosses would be wise to try and ensure it did not have a knock on effect at work.

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Is that it then?

Not quite. Your employer needs evidence to support the fact you've been found guilty of gross misconduct before they can turf you out.

They also need to take any mitigating circumstances into account and generally look at length of service too.

More than that, they have to follow a fair process in deciding to let you go, or you could have grounds for appeal.

If you do appeal, the authorities will look at the process by which your bosses arrived at the decision to let you go. For example, did they conduct a thorough investigation and speak to the relevant witnesses?

There might also be grounds for appeal if you've been sacked for something that many other people haven't been sacked for, despite the management knowing about it.