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5 legal issues that will scare employers this Halloween

It is no surprise that Halloween is one of the holidays that your employees enjoy celebrating in the workplace. Celebrations range from trick or treating, pumpkin carving contests, adult costume contests to parties with alcohol. For employees’ they all encourage interaction and workplace engagement but for employers’ they all open the door for potential liabilities and concerns. So what are the 5 top legal issues that employers need to be aware of to avoid the scare this Halloween?

1.    Discrimination against Pagans

Religion is simply defined by the Equality Act as “any religion”, and does not state the belief has to be a major religion to be protected. Therefore employers must take non-mainstream religions as seriously as they do with the major religions.

In Holland v Angel Supermarket Ltd and another, a Wiccan witch succeeded in bringing a religion or belief discrimination claim. She claimed that she was mocked and later dismissed after switching her shifts to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve.

2.    Discrimination by fancy dress

Quite often employers use fancy dress to encourage positive morale amongst employees, however they have the scope cause controversy and offend some groups of people. For example, a Halloween costume that stereotypes a particular nationality, religion or someone with a mental health problem, could lead to a discrimination claim.

Further, problems can also occur when employees are given no option but to take part in fancy dress events at the workplace as demonstrated by the case of X v Y. In the said case, the Tribunal held that a gay employee suffered harassment when he was subject to banter that was of a sexual nature at a workplace fancy dress event which he could not opt out of.

Brown v Young & Co.’s Brewery is another case that demonstrate how fancy dress in the workplace can cause issues. In this case, it was found that a black pub worker was harassed by his manager when he told him that he “looked like a pimp” when he was wearing a promotional St Patrick’s Day hat. 

3.    Misconduct during Halloween

Employees may commit misconduct during Halloween. For example employees’ may use Halloween related images in an inappropriate way.

In Biggin Hill Airport Ltd v Derwich an employee was dismissed for putting an image of a witch on the computer of a colleague who “unfriended” her on Facebook.

4.    Social media misconduct

No doubt employees will be posting statuses and pictures of their Halloween celebrations on social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

So from a practical point of view it cannot be stressed enough how important it is for employers to make it clear that any inappropriate social use of the internet outside the workplace could result in disciplinary action if it brings the company’s reputation into disrepute.

5.    Absence management

Employers should reinforce their company’s policy in relation to alcohol at work and their disciplinary policy. Employees should be reminded that absence because of a hangover, or coming to work but being unable to function, following the Halloween weekend is completely unacceptable.

As always if I can provide you with any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me for a free consultation on 0113 350 4030 or samira.cakali@scesolicitors.co.uk.


Samira Cakali

Samira Cakali is a pragmatic and approachable solicitor advocate with extensive contentious and non-contentious experience in the fields of employment law as well as civil litigation, within a range of commercial businesses from SME’s to multinationals as well as senior executives.

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