We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

 Labor law information regarding company Christmas parties.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Eventually the time arrives for the company Christmas celebration – whether a party or a quieter event. But what labor law aspects have to be considered when it comes to Christmas parties?

No obligation to participate

A company Christmas party may feel like a mandatory event. Legally, is a different matter: Nobody is actually required to attend a company Christmas party, regardless of whether it takes place outside or during working hours. Christmas parties are simply not part of the work obligation.

However, if the Christmas party takes place during working hours, those who do not celebrate have to work. On the other hand, if employees are unable to work because their colleagues are absent while at the Christmas party, employers should declare that employees who are not celebrating are permitted to go home.

Beware of discrimination!

At many companies, the entire workforce cannot celebrate at the same time, due to production needing to continue, for example. Employers need to be careful when selecting people who will be working instead of partying: Assigning people to work without asking them, assuming that they will not be interested in the Christmas party because of their ethnic background or religion can be discriminatory. Ideally, companies should look for volunteers who do not want to go to the Christmas party.

Everyone welcome

Christmas parties at companies are generally open to everyone at the company unless the celebration is explicitly held by specific departments only (see Cologne Labor Court, decision dated May 22, 2017, Ref.: 8 Ca 5233/16). As such, anyone can come to a general company Christmas party. Therefore, arbitrarily excluding individuals or parts of the workforce without a material reason is prohibited. Conversely, excluding people who have to work during the Christmas party is permissible. Emergency services are one example.

The law still applies at Christmas parties

After a couple of mulled wines, some people might go a little overboard at a Christmas party. Depending on the actual incident, they may then face legal consequences from their employers. This can range from a warning to termination without notice (such as in the case of severe insults, LAG Hamm, 18 Sa 836/04). This applies even if the Christmas party is held outside of working hours. Violating secondary contractual obligations, such as consideration towards colleagues and suchlike, outside of working hours can also lead to similar legal consequences.

Accidents at the Christmas party

Accidents can happen wherever there is a party – on the way to the party, at the party itself or on the way home.

As a company Christmas party is a company event, statutory accident insurance generally applies.

However, at the party itself, the insurance coverage only applies for the duration of the party. If the party is not officially ended, the statutory accident insurance will still apply even in the event of an accident in the early hours of the morning (cf. Social Court Frankfurt, S 10 U 2623/03). In view of this, companies are advised to officially declare the company Christmas party over at some point.

It is important to be aware that if family members are also invited to the Christmas party, then the company Christmas party is no longer regarded as a shared company event under insurance law (Federal Social Court of Germany (BSG), decision dated November 15, 2016, Ref.: B 2 U 12/15 R).

Photos for the Intranet or social media?

Photos are often taken at company parties. Some companies even hire photographers to capture the atmosphere to share on their website and social media.

However, employers need to take the utmost care to ensure that images of employees are only published with their consent. Publishing images on Instagram and other platforms without their consent violates the employees’ general right of personality. The company’s responsible persons or departments or external agencies need to be expressly informed!

Summary of the key facts:

  • The law also applies at company Christmas parties: Misconduct can be punished under labor law.
  • If the entire workforce cannot attend the Christmas party, employers need to take care when selecting the people who have to work.
  • For insurance reasons, only inviting employees to the company Christmas party is recommended, as is officially declaring that the party is over at some point.