Christmas is coming, and with it comes the work Christmas party. Activities, venues and catering need to be considered – so too does employee party behaviour and employer responsibility.
Employers are responsible for the health, safety and conduct of their employees during the course of business – including work functions. If businesses cannot show that they have taken ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent employee misconduct they could find themselves held vicariously liable if such behaviour occurs.
A relaxed party atmosphere (often accompanied by the consumption of alcohol), can see people let go of their inhibitions and ‘work persona’. This increases the risk of behaviour that would generally not be displayed at work.
So what can you do as an employer to help fulfil your obligations for the health and wellbeing of your employees, and decrease the risk for unwanted behaviour and legal action against you?
Tips for managing the Christmas party:
- Advise staff in writing that the Christmas party is a work event. As such all workplace policies and procedures (i.e. code of conduct, social media, OH&S, bullying and sexual harassment), apply. Update, distribute and provide training on such policies to remind staff of requirements/expectations if required.
- Assess the venue/activity for risk, particularly if alcohol is to be consumed. Address any perceived risks accordingly.
- Ensure that any alcohol is served responsibly. This reduces the risk of misconduct during the event. It also reduces the risk of employer liability after the event. Employers can be found liable for damage/injury caused/sustained after the event if it is found that their alcohol consumption contributed to the incident.
- Arrange for non-alcoholic drinks and food to be served if alcohol is available.
- If themed parties or Kris Kringle activities are to take place, remind employees that costumes and/or gifts must be appropriate and inoffensive.
- Provide details for public transport options or arrange transport for employees.
- Advise employees of the finish time of the party and that any subsequent events or ‘after parties’ occur in their own time and are not deemed to be ‘work related’.
- Do not knowingly allow an employee or guest to drive intoxicated.
- Address any complaints or concerns immediately – before, during or after the party.
Christmas events are supposed to be a fun and relaxed way to end the year. Reducing the risk for inappropriate behaviour allows everyone to enjoy themselves in a safe manner. It also reduces the risk of a legal hang-over that could follow you into the New Year.
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