A recent Tribunal case has found that a colleague who was excluded from a works night out organised by colleagues amounted to a form of victimisation.

The Tribunal Court found that by not allowing a colleague to participate in a social event or being excluded from discussions about it at work denied the claimant an opportunity to socialise with others and create bonds with their colleagues.  This led to them being disadvantaged and victimised when compared to others.

A timely reminder

In this case the event wasn’t organised by the business on behalf of the team but was being organised by the employees themselves and so because it was related to work the employer still had a duty of care to prevent an employee from being treated differently compared to others or purposely excluded from conversations and events that relate to them.

On the face of it this may seem like an extreme case, but it’s important to remember that many social events take place outside of work and are organised by colleagues such as informal Christmas events or birthday celebrations amongst colleagues.

So, where a team is organising something amongst themselves it’s important to remember that everyone should be given the same opportunity to participate in the event.

Where things start to get a little murky is where only a small percentage of the team are going out together – perhaps due to friendships – does this mean that all colleagues should be invited, including those that are not classed as friends?

Perhaps the answer to this is to consider how many of the team are going, out of all those that are in the team, so if there is a team of 10 and 3 are organising an event just for themselves then it could be reasonable that not everyone gets invited as it does not impact on most of the group.

If 8 or 9 of the team are going out together then excluding 1 or 2 members from discussions or not inviting them will start to look more like individuals are being singled out for exclusion and so may lead to a sense of unfairness around how the event was organised.

Obligations of an employer

Employers should be alert to situations where teams are organising social events and steps should be taken to ensure that all the team are given the same opportunity to participate where the event includes most or all a group of staff.  Employees should be made aware of their obligations not to exclude others or play favourites to minimise risks of potential claims of unfairness.

Where an employee makes a complaint of being excluded or signed out for different treatment, they should take those concerns seriously and investigate matters as opposed to trying to brush them under the carpet,

The full case review can be found here.