Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

9th December 2019

The festive season is well and truly in full swing - it’s time to let your hair down and enjoy your annual Christmas party. However, it can be difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to festive antics with any ‘wild’ behaviour likely to be recorded and shared on social media.

Whether the party is in or out of the office it should be treated as an extension of the workplace with both employers and employees conducting themselves appropriately. Although, 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.

Louise Newbould-Walton, Associate Solicitor at DAS Law, looks at the rules surrounding the office Christmas party...

Do the normal rules of gross misconduct apply at a Christmas Party?

Yes they do. The work Christmas party 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 Tom from accounts’ is likely to be a gross misconduct offence. At an office party however, the professional line is often 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 company 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 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 they are uploaded you are granting a licence to that social media company to use or allow others to use that photo/video.

Due to the lack of privacy laws, 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 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 they are 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 recourses available to prevent or remove photos/videos are a court injunction, a court order for return or destruction, or damages by way of financial compensation.

However, if the photos/videos belong to an employer, then with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation on the 25 May 2018, it is important to remember that 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 the company’s 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 provided;
  • Be prepared to deal with any inappropriate behaviour in line with company policy and be consistent in how you apply the policy;
  • Avoid discussions about career prospects or remuneration with employees;
  • Consider nominating a member of management 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 office gossip or office ‘banter’ which could be offensive;
  • Try to discuss why you should have a pay rise with your manager;
  • Make any unwelcome advances, sexual or otherwise;
  • Become violent or aggressive.
  • Forget to enjoy the event!

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

Your rights if it’s too cold in the workplace

As the winter weather arrives with a vengeance, chilly workplaces across the UK are potentially having serious impacts on the health and effectiveness of employees.

January 2019 Learn more
How to navigate employment rights in the gig economy

If you are unsure about your employment status, the rights and benefits that come with it, you need advice from professionals who understand the law.

July 2018 Learn more
Dismissal from work

In the majority of cases, if your employer wants to dismiss you from your job, they are required by law to follow certain procedures to ensure that everything is done fairly. Make sure you know your employment rights in a dismissal situation.

April 2018 Learn more

More from our legal blog

Employment disputes Braving the storms: what every employee and employer needs to know about winter commuting

If you run your own business, bad weather can cause chaos when staff can’t get in. What employment law regulations are in place when handling transport troubles in winter?

February 2020
Employment disputes Do employees get extra pay on a leap year day?

Every four years, many workers find themselves cramming an extra day of work into an already packed year. But are workers in the UK entitled to extra pay for this extra work?

February 2020
Employment disputes My employer is advertising my job. Where do I stand?

DAS Law’s Lauren Woolf explains what to do if you find out your employer has been advertising your job without informing you that you are being dismissed.

January 2020
General advice , Employment disputes Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2019
Employment disputes , Goods and services disputes All you need to know about tipping

Are we legally obliged to tip? Does that money actually go to the staff or is it kept by the business owner? Thomas Pertaia has the answers.

December 2019
Employment disputes International Stress Awareness Week: your workplace rights

To mark International Stress Awareness Week, Hannah Parsons, a solicitor at DAS Law, takes a look at what the law says your employer needs to do about stress.

October 2019
Employment disputes , Protecting your business Health and safety and computers

Employers need to manage the risks to their employees of working at computers for long periods of time. DAS Law’s Bethan Mack explains.

October 2019
Employment disputes Is there a time limit for providing an employee with a P45?

As an employer, you are required to tell HMRC when somebody leaves or retires, and deduct and pay the correct tax and National Insurance.

October 2019
Employment disputes What you need to know about pay and wages

The law seeks to provide a fair structure and ensure that we are appropriately compensated for our efforts, and that employers cannot underpay or exploit us when it comes to our wages.

October 2019
Employment disputes How to deal with mental health discrimination at work

There are legal protections in place to support those with a mental health condition. Here’s what you need to know if you are being treated unfairly at work because of your mental health.

October 2019
Employment disputes Don’t get a red card while watching the World Cup at work

If you are planning on watching World Cup matches at work there are a number of important things to consider.

September 2019
Employment disputes Can your boss force you to work the August Bank Holiday?

Can you refuse to work on a bank holiday? DAS Law’s Hannah Parsons outlines your rights.

August 2019
Employment disputes , Goods and services disputes , Professional services disputes Is the customer always right when it comes to alcohol and pregnancy?

A recent Reddit post sparked debate on personal accountability and the rights of serving staff when it comes to alcohol. Larna Mason explains what the law says.

August 2019