As we’re approaching the countdown to Christmas, a recent Court of Appeal decision has highlighted the importance of taking proactive measures particularly during this festive season.
Can employers be liable for the acts of their employees outside of the workplace?
In short, the answer is yes. Before determining liability, the courts will look at: –
• The employment relationship; and
• The sufficiency of connection between the act and their employment.
In the recent case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd  EWCA Civ 2214 the Court of Appeal held the employer vicariously liable for the acts of its managing director (MD). This case involved a group of employees attending a hotel for drinks following the office Christmas party. The MD was involved in discussing company business with the group when he assaulted another employee causing him to suffer severe brain damage.
The Court found a sufficient connection between the MD’s job role and the assault despite the incident taking place at a location attended by the employees on a voluntary basis. The emphasis was placed on the fact the MD was exercising his authority over the group at the time. The employer was therefore vicariously liable for the MD’s actions and faced payment of damages.
Bellman provides a fresh warning to employers about how the courts will interpret what amounts to ‘in the course of employment’. The facts of this case were rather unusual and therefore, not all assaults outside the workplace will automatically amount to the employers being vicariously liable but, it is worth erring on the side of caution.
We recommend taking the following steps: –
• Maintaining up to date policies on equal opportunities and behaviour outside of work;
• Training staff surrounding discrimination practices in the workplace; and
• Reminding employees about the standards of behaviour expected from them when attending work events.
To find out more about how we can help you to take a Proactive approach to prevent vicarious liability please contact us.