It’s time again to unwind and thank employees at the long-awaited Christmas Party!
But at risk of being the Grinch, a Christmas party is still a work function. Employers still owe a duty of care to their employees and employees can still
be expected to behave appropriately to each other.
Risk-managing the Christmas party starts by heeding this counsel by the Fair Work Commission:
"it is contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behaviour at a function but at the same time
to allow the unlimited service of free alcohol. If alcohol is supplied in such a manner it becomes entirely predictable that some individuals will
consume an excessive amount and behave inappropriately."
Employers should also know that:
under anti-discrimination laws, an employer can be held responsible for actions of employees in relation to harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination;
injuries suffered at the Christmas party can in certain circumstances be claimed under Workers’ Compensation, so the potential for a costly claim can
be just as high as operating dangerous equipment!
Some practical steps an employer can take to minimise risks and maximise everyone having a good time are:
having an appropriate and up-to-date conduct policy in place that is easily accessible to staff;
reinforcing to employees before the event that the Christmas party is a work-related event and that workplace policies and rules therefore apply;
reminding employees that failing to comply with the employer's policies during the event may be a basis for disciplinary action which could lead to
being aware of religious and cultural diversity;
ensuring that the venue will provide responsible service of alcohol and have plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks available;
ensuring alcohol is served only during set times for the event;
if possible, holding the event in a separate area from other functions;
limiting alcohol service so it can be managed, rather than have an open bar;
being aware that junior employees may be under age to consume alcohol;
providing safe options for employees to get home from the function;
appointing one or more responsible persons who will not drink as a go to for staff throughout the event;
having a set ending time for the work event portion, and therefore any staff that ‘party on’ are doing so in a social capacity; and
taking appropriate and timely action if and when inappropriate behaviour occurs.
With these precautions taken, you and your staff can still kick up your heels and have a great Christmas Party!