Your office party ‘could be ageist’

Posted On November 1, 2006

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Drunken flirting, bad dancing, and enough gossip to last a whole year are the hallmarks of most office Christmas parties.

But now companies are facing a new headache over the bash, if they choose an ‘ageist’ venue it could land them in court. That is the verdict of a law firm which says it has been ‘inundated’ by requests from companies confused by recent age discrimination laws.

If certain members of staff are already the victims of ageist remarks or pranks then picking a place which they will not like could ‘push them over the edge’ and trigger a claim, solicitors SAS Daniels warned yesterday.

Jonathan Whittaker, employment partner at the Cheshire firm, said: ‘It may seem frivolous, but it could actually become a major problem. ‘An office party that leans towards a late-night clubbing scenario could offend older members of the staff, but a quieter afternoon meal in a restaurant could upset the younger members of the team.

The danger signs are if a company tries to force together a party as part of an effort to raise morale, appease an individual or small group, or ‘team-build’ maybe to try to smooth over conflict.

‘This may make things worse: there will be simply no pleasing everybody, but instead of a sulk or a strop there may be a claim.’

However, he said it was a mistake to think that the new laws were meant to stop people having fun and the way through the legal maze was not to do anything too extreme.

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