BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 10/98: Office Life  
News Front Page
N Ireland
UK Politics
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Office Life Tuesday, 8 December, 1998, 17:40 GMT
Party at your peril
It's that time of year when the boundaries between work and pleasure become blurred in an alcohol-induced haze. Good taste and decency go out the window as you indulge in passionate karaoke duets and gyrating Lambadas with people you normally know on a how-they-take their-coffee basis.

Whether it's a binge on a bus or a themed extravaganza, Christmas parties officially kick off on 1 December and rock on to the 23rd.

Party fever

Bentley's Entertainment, responsible for several recent Royal "do's" and party planners for the Posh Spice-David Beckham wedding, claims demand for parties is heavy this year but there is evidence of some cutbacks.

Events designer, Tom Freud, is currently working on a circus-style event for a city bank (chainsaw juggling included), and a Roman orgy for 450 for a company he insists will remain nameless.

office party do's and don't's
He says some companies in the banking industry have scaled down their parties this year.

"I had one client who started off with a large budget at the beginning of the year but it has got smaller as the year has gone on," he said.

Spending up large

The amount spent on parties organised by Bentley's varies hugely from 10 a head through to those with a price tag of tens of thousands of pounds per guest.

Tammy Pearce, the party co-ordinator for Awesome Events says standard packages start at 25 per person with more lavish occasions reaching up to 300 per head. Last year they created an Oscars ceremony complete with celebrity lookalikes and pre-recorded links on big screens.

"This year, one of our more unusual events is a Caribbean beach party in the basement of a large hotel. It will be complete with pool, steel band, tropical cocktails, limbo dancers and grass skirts."

Same as they ever were

Tom Freud believes office parties are as wild as they ever were. "I certainly don't think things are getting any less outrageous. Without fail there's always at least one person who drinks as though prohibition is about to come back in and has to walk sheepishly back into the office after the Christmas break."

Arthur Somerset from Mask Entertainment which is catering for 14,000 office revellers this month agrees. "Inevitably with large numbers of people there are those who drink to excess and have problems which are dealt with by first aid," he said.

But injuries from dancing on tables aside, the dark side of office parties can carry a huge cost.

Mopping up the mess

Jean Balcombe, a spokesperson for the Industrial Society, which has about 3500 members, says a flood of calls come every year from employers seeking post office party advice.

"Often they are to do with an employee who has drunk too much and got into a fight or some sort of harassment, driving home drunk or causing damage to the venue," she said.

party disasters
In the early part of the year the caseload at Eversheds law firm is dominated by employers trying to discipline employees for party excesses.

"One year a client of mine was having a party in a restaurant where another party was going on and a huge fight erupted," employment partner Hilary Campion said.

"It started out with bread flying but before long it was fists that were flying. I was called out to the police station in the middle of the night."

He says cases usually hinge on whether the employee knew that they were behaving in a way that was unacceptable to the company.

"They make a claim on the basis that their senior manager was behaving just as badly as anyone else and so it is unfair to dismiss them on that basis," Mr Campion said.

Getting in early

This year Eversheds has gone as far as to dish out advice to employers before the event. "Basically if you let employees know where the line is, without being a killjoy, then many problems could be avoided."

And money could be saved. Companies can be culpable for the bad behaviour of its employees. Compensation for hurt feelings alone can range from 750 to 3000.

And the "hey, it was the office party, things get a little loose!" excuse does not stand up.

"The laws have actually tightened. Going around with mistletoe and grabbing the nearest woman is just no longer acceptable," Mr Campion said.

Food for thought. But as you reach for the hangover cure, food is probably the last thing on your mind.

This is the last in the current series of Office Life features. There will be a new series in the New Year.

Links to more Office Life stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Office Life stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
UK Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |