Managing Christmas Festivities in the Workplace

A HR manager recounted an incident in the office, where a number of employees stayed after hours and drank excessively, one of them acted inappropriately, startling another employee who was still working.  She did not want to discipline these employees, but can she write a warning note about their behaviour and put it on their files to refer to, if needed in any future disciplinary proceedings?  The HR manager would like them to know that the business takes this kind of behaviour seriously.

The question is not an unusual one, given the festivities that are under way at this time of year.  However, the simple answer to this question, is no.  If a HR manager wishes to give the employees a written warning, retain it on their files and possibly refer to that written warning in future disciplinary proceedings, then they cannot write a warning note about the findings and give it to the employees, without going through a formal process.  Instead, each employee should be given a written invitation to a disciplinary hearing, advising them of the allegation against them and providing information in support of the allegations.

That would involve an investigation of the incident, where someone, other than the HR manager, would meet with witnesses who were there at the time and they would take witness statements accordingly.  When inviting the employees to their disciplinary hearings, they need to be told in that invitation, what the level of alleged misconduct is, whether minor, major or gross and of their right to be accompanied to the hearing, by a fellow worker or trade union official.  If you want to use a warning in the event of any future misconduct, you would have to follow this formal process.

However, if you do not want to use the warning for any future purpose, then alternatively, you could have a conversation with the employees individually, noting their behaviour and advising them of  future good conduct and the behaviour that you expect from them in the workplace and reminding them of any code of conduct you may have which refers to that.  This informal conversation between them and their manager could simply be noted on file.  Remember, however, that this would not constitute a formal sanction and therefore you could not refer to it in any future disciplinary processes.  Any conversation between the manager and the employees must be done on a face to face and one to one basis.

In relation to the employee who was startled by this behaviour, you may wish to speak with him or her and apologise for any perceived upset that may have been caused and explain that the matter has been dealt with.

While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.