Now that the baubles and bubbles are done for another year, it’s time to settle back into the swing of moderation. But for some employees, the aftermath of Christmas is about more than just calorie-counting and quiet nights in. Some find themselves in the midst of a disciplinary because of their antics during the festive season.

The perils of Christmas parties are well-documented. But in our first case report of 2017, we look at an extreme example of celebrations gone wrong...

Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd

After their works Christmas party at a golf club, some of the attendees decided to move on to a new venue. These included Mr Bellman (a manager) and Mr Major (a company director).

At around 3am, Mr Major assaulted Mr Bellman. It led to a serious brain injury, and Mr Bellman went on to sue his employer.

The usual rule is that an employer will be liable for things an employee does in the course of their employment. But was the employer liable for something that happened not at the works party, but afterwards and in a different venue?

The High Court held that, no, vicarious liability didn’t extend to this situation where employees had chosen to move the party on. There was a big difference between the event at the golf club and the impromptu drinks at the hotel. It wasn’t a seamless extension of the Christmas party. “In substance what remained were hotel guests, some being employees of the Defendant some not, having a very late drink with some visitors”, the Court said.

Even though there were some work-related discussions at the hotel, that didn’t provide enough of a connection to support a finding of vicarious liability. The Court said that the time at the hotel was, or became, an entirely independent, voluntary, and discreet early-hours drinking session of a very different nature to the Christmas party and unconnected with the employer’s business.

For more information on Employment Law please contact Alison Gair on

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