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After the last few years of Pandemic recovery, Christmas Parties are coming back!  Time to shake off office wear, wear Christmas jumpers and embarrassing hats, take advantage of the free bar and celebrate the end of another work year.

In my role as a lawyer specialising in disability┬árights, here’s a quick reminder for employers to consider the needs of your team when booking your venue. These things sound obvious when spelled out but are easy to miss whilst managing the demands of running a business.

First of all, when selecting a venue make sure that you’re choosing one which meets the mobility requirements of your staff and guests. Is there level, ramped or elevator access? Is there an accessible toilet (and is it actually accessible or being used a store room?).

Is there a requirement to have a table near an accessible toilet? Is there an evacuation policy for any mobility impaired employees? Do menus need to be provided in alternative formats? Are assistance or support animals allowed? Is there a quiet space for people who may become sensory overloaded?

From an employment perspective, employers can be held liable for actions of an employee at Christmas parties. It follows than an employee can argue that they have been excluded and discriminated against by the selection of an inaccessible venue.

However, interestingly the employer is also a service user purchasing a service from the venue and may also have rights to enforce on behalf of its staff. There is limited caselaw on this but here are our tips:

If you’re the employer:

Make sure you identify accessibility within proposed venues;

Circulate those to employees and guests to ask whether the venue meets their disability needs;

Communicate those needs to the venue;

If you’re a disabled employee:

Make sure that your employer is aware of your needs when booking a venue;

Keep a record of any access fails.

If you’re the venue:

Make sure you’re asking about the access needs when booking enquiries are made.

Make a risk assessment as to the viability of the booking and consider what adjustments may be necessary and the costs associated with that before confirming the booking.

However you’re involved, getting these issues right is key to a Happy Christmas !

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