Are you worried about how to act at your impending office Christmas party? Do you relax and enjoy the free bar or act professionally, as though you’re on a business meeting? The case of Bellman (B) V Northampton Recruitment (NR) may have some answers for you.

In 2011 NR threw their annual office party which was attended by 23 members of staff. As the carriages arrived, some decided to continue the party at a local hotel. Amongst these members of staff was B and the Managing Director of NR; the drinking continued and light hearted conversation soon turned to heated work discussions between the two, which resulted in the Managing Director assaulting B.

As a result, B attempted to sue the Company on the basis that NR was indirectly responsible for the Managing Director’s actions. The court disagreed, however, stating that this was an ‘after-work’ event and that the Managing Director could not be expected to be ‘on duty’ at all times. They therefore declared that, as this was a non-work related event, the fact a work related discussion was the cause of the assault was redundant as the event could have taken place during a social game of golf.

The judge declared that if a company was responsible for conversations between employees then the liability would become so sparse that it would make it ‘potentially uninsurable’.

It was also said, however, that it was ‘personal choice to have yet further alcohol long after a work event had ended’ therefore implying that, had this same incident taken place at the official event, NR may have been liable.