It used to be the case that the only thing that could ruin the office Christmas party was the drunk employee who used the photocopier to take pictures of their anatomy.
But social media has opened up a new pitfall for staff who could find themselves waking up with a disciplinary hangover, or even worse, that cannot be cured by a couple of paracetamol and a fry-up – especially if it leads to them losing their job.
Now leading employment lawyer Kate Jones is urging workers going out and enjoying themselves over Christmas to think before they Tweet or put something on Facebook that embarrasses their employer, as it could have far reaching consequences.
Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests one in 10 workers knows someone who was disciplined or even dismissed for their conduct at a Christmas party.
Ms Jones, assistant solicitor within the employment team at Midlands firm mfg Solicitors, said: “It’s the season to be jolly but there are some serious consequences to sharing too much online when employees eat, drink and get perhaps a little too merry.
“Employment laws apply even when the worker is somewhere other than their workplace.
“Most employers are now savvy about social media and some routinely review their employees’ Facebook, Twitter and other accounts to make sure there’s nothing that could bring their business or organisation into disrepute.
“We’ve seen a spike in disciplinary action linked to social media – and it often shoots up around Christmas.
“What might seem like a very funny thing to do or say in the environment of friends having a drink will not seem so to the world at large.
“Putting anything on social media is tantamount to shouting it through a megaphone. If it’s not something you’d say to your boss’s face, in front of a room full of your customers, don’t put it online, even if you think you have your account set to the highest level of privacy.”
Ms Jones, who advises workers across the region on a variety of employment matters, also urged workers to use their common sense when it came to drinking.
She added: “Over Christmas employees may be more likely to have a drink during the day, perhaps if they go out to celebrate at lunchtime.
“But even though the decorations are up and some employers might encourage the odd Christmas jumper here and there, it’s still the workplace. Employees should check their workplace’s drink and drug testing policies because if they are likely to be tested, then
this is the time when bosses will be especially likely to want to make sure their workers are not breaking the rules.
“No boss wants to be the Grinch and spoil Christmas. But they also know they have work to do and a reputation to uphold. Don’t ruin your career over a spur of the moment bit of over-indulgence.”
Workers interested in discussing the subject further with Ms Jones can call 0845 55 55 321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org