Sophia Mellor, head of family law at Blythe Liggins Solicitors, gives her advice on the options available if festive parenting arrangements with a former partner are becoming problematic

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year but, for those who co-parent with a former partner, it can be fraught with anxiety around access arrangements.

Both parents will be looking forward to spending quality time with their children at this special time of year.

But, if you’re the resident parent – the one who the child or children live with most of the time – and there have been previous disputes about childcare arrangements with the non-resident parent, this can be stressful and cause you difficulty in your own arrangements. It may be, for example, that they are now stating that pre-arranged and agreed collection times no longer work for them and are requesting changes.

Faced with having to alter your own arrangements to fit in with the other parent and their requests – rather than having a discussion and your own arrangements being considered – it can be tempting to consider simply cancelling the whole thing.

However, that cannot be the right approach and you must continue to focus on your children and their wishes and feelings. They would have been looking forward to spending time with their non-resident parent and this may well be the first proper break they will enjoy with them since the summer holidays.

If the arrangements have been disrupted again because of your ex-partner, perhaps you could leave it until the new year to resolve the issue, once and for all, by entering into a proper agreement.

This would set out the arrangements for Christmas and New Year, as well as other relevant times of the year, so that next year you are not in the same position again.

If an agreement does not work, you may wish to consider seeking advice from a specialist family law solicitor. With their help, you can approach the court for an order which would ensure clarity and, most importantly, stability in the arrangements for your children.

That way, everyone will know what to expect and the children can look forward to seeing both of their parents when next Christmas arrives.

Whatever your situation, remember that Father Christmas can visit different homes in the same night or on different nights, and that it is all about the magic for your precious children.

CAPTION: Sophia Mellor, head of family law at Blythe Liggins Solicitors, Leamington Spa

 

After the disruption to all forms of socialising caused by COVID, the Office Christmas party of 2022 is long awaited. With that anticipation (and a dose of alcohol thrown in), will staff be more likely to “throw caution to the wind” and overstep the boundaries at the event?

When people “let their hair down”, their conversations and behaviour can become less guarded; what one person may deem to be a joke or a friendly hug, another can perceive to be discrimination or harassment.

If you treat someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation religion or belief), this is discriminatory. Claims for harassment can also arise if the harassment is related to a protected characteristic.

There can be repercussions from the Office party which all parties would prefer to avoid: grievances raised; disciplinary proceedings instigated; and in the worst cases, Employment Tribunal claims launched on the basis of events at the party.

Employers will be liable for any discrimination or harassment which is carried out by staff in the course of employment. In most instances, the Office party is likely to be treated by the Employment Tribunal as an extension of the workplace (even when it takes place at an external venue) and employers will be liable for the actions of their staff.

Employers can seek to protect themselves from such claims by ensuring that they have an Equal Opportunities policy in place which outlaws discrimination and harassment, they train staff on in it and deal with any allegations appropriately. A reminder to staff before the party takes place regarding what behaviour is unacceptable and the potential consequences of it would not go amiss.

Employees should also bear in mind that they can be individually named as a party in any Employment Tribunal proceedings (as well as their employer) if allegations of discrimination or harassment are made against them.

Enjoy the party but don’t start 2023 with a HR hangover!

Caption: Julia Woodhouse, Employment Law Solicitor.