Home » Christmas Parties and Managing the Inevitable Risks

Christmas Parties and Managing the Inevitable Risks

Posted by Maeve Doyle | 25 November 2019 | Employment & Workplace Relations

It’s that time again. Getting your employees together for a work Christmas party is a great way to celebrate the end of the working year.

However, HR departments often see a spike in complaints after a Christmas party. The social atmosphere, fueled by alcohol, may lead to workplace injuries or inappropriate behaviour, such as sexual harassment, discrimination or bullying. You, as the employer, remain legally responsible for the conduct of employees at work related events.

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce:

  • the risk of any employee misconduct occurring; and
  • your vicarious liability for your employees’ misconduct if it does occur.

Some Tips to Reduce Your Risk

  • Before the event, remind employees that as the function is a work-related event and they are therefore expected to comply with your workplace policies. Suggest that they familiarise themselves with relevant policies, such as the Code of Conduct, discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and alcohol and drug use.
  • Warn employees about the consequences of unacceptable conduct.
  • Specify clear start and end times for the Christmas Party and ensure alcohol is not served after the end time.
  • Serve alcohol responsibly and limit the amount of alcohol available;
  • Ensure that food and non-alcoholic drinks are available.
  • Make sure that young employees below the legal drinking age do not drink.
  • Appoint a person or persons from the management team to keep an eye on the festivities and take appropriate action should any concerns arise.
  • Ensure safe transportation home is available and advise employees that they should not drive if they are going to drink.
  • If an employee is behaving badly at the party, ‘nip it in the bud’ immediately.
  • Don’t organise, or pay for, drinks at alternative venues after the party is finished.
  • Ensure that everyone leaves the premises at the end of the party.
  • If a complaint arises about behaviour at the Christmas party, make sure that the complaint is dealt with promptly and that it is investigated if required.

Lesson for Employers

Prepare for the worst so you can minimise the risk of employee misconduct. If you have any questions or concerns about the above information, we are happy to assist.

Maeve Doyle is a senior employment lawyer with Nexus.  If you need further advice or support, she can be contacted on mcd@nexuslawyers.com.au or by telephone +612 9016 0141.

This publication is © Nexus Law Group and is for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to any specific issues.

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