Halloween Frights for Employers

Halloween tips for employers

Halloween is steadily becoming more popular in the UK, with workplaces increasingly permitting or encouraging employees to participate in activities such as fancy dress, decorating work areas or holding themed parties.  Whilst Halloween can be a lot of fun, the increased participation can present a legal headache for some employers.

These are the top five concerns that employers may wish to bear in mind at this time of year:

1. Fancy dress Whilst in the main fancy dress is inoffensive and fun, some costumes can cause offence. Problematic costumes could include those which poke fun at religion or disabilities such as mental health for example. These could result in a discrimination or harassment claim from an employee.  As a result, businesses may wish to issue guidelines as to what will or will not be appropriate if encouraging fancy dress in the workplace or throwing a Halloween party.

2. Religious discrimination Halloween is often said to originate from Paganism, which could be deemed to amount to a religious belief in accordance with the Equality Act 2010.   Having clear equal opportunity and anti- bullying and harassment policies in place can assist businesses to defend claims for discrimination that takes place at work or during a work organised event.

3. Social media risks Even if a business decides not to participate in any form of Halloween celebrations, the actions of employees outside of work could cause issues or result in disciplinary action. For example, many colleagues are now friends via social media such as Facebook. If inappropriate behaviour takes place outside of work, this still could result in difficulties at work, especially if that action amounts to discrimination or harassment.   We would therefore recommend that businesses have a clear social media policy in place, which will not only make it clear what behaviour is deemed to be unacceptable, but will also enable a business to take disciplinary action should lines be crossed outside of the workplace.

4. Workplace pranks The tradition of ‘trick or treating’ can cause issues in itself. What is viewed as ‘good fun’ by one employee may be seen as bullying or harassment by another. Any complaints of bullying should be taken seriously and investigated fully by an employer.

5. Hangover absences Some employees may not be able to face work after a heavy night of festivities. If clear evidence is held that an absence is as a result of a hangover and not a genuine illness, it is possible to take disciplinary action.

For more information or advice contact Christine Hart in KBL’s employment team on 01204 527777.