The silly season has started and Christmas parties are well underway. For employers, this means it is time to think about employee safety and wellbeing during the party season and to remind employees about their obligations at work events.
Remember – it is a work event
Employer sponsored Christmas parties and events will almost always be viewed as an extension of the workplace. This means that employers should remain vigilant about compliance with workplace laws, including work health and safety laws, anti-discrimination laws and sexual harassment laws. Equally, employees should take care to comply with their obligations as employees - including by meeting expected standards of behaviour.
Tips to minimise risk
Everyone wants to have a great time, but it is important to make sure that this is done safely and within the bounds of workplace laws. At a minimum we suggest that employers remind their employees, either verbally or by email that:
- The work Christmas party is a work event and an extension of the workplace;
- Employees must behave responsibly and comply with all company policies during the event;
- Over consumption of alcohol is not acceptable and will not be tolerated; and
- Inappropriate conduct could lead to disciplinary steps being taken.
A prudent employer will also:
- Conduct a risk assessment for the event and/or its location if this is appropriate and take steps to mitigate any known risks. We’ve seen companies plan sailing trips, horse riding days and paint ball battles, as well as more sedate dinner and drinks events. The risks will always be different and it is important to stop and think about possible risks before the big day and to take steps to mitigate those risks where possible;
- Let employees know when the event will finish and wrap up at that time. If the official event does run over time, continue to take the precautions put in place for the earlier part of the evening;
- Remind employees that if they choose to stay at the party location or move onto a second location after the work party has finished, make it clear that the after party is separate from the work Christmas party and not a work endorsed event;
- Nominate one or more managers to oversee the work Christmas party, keep an eye on staff alcohol consumption and be available if an employee needs assistance during the event;
- Ensure the responsible service of alcohol and an adequate supply of food and non-alcoholic drinks; and
- Ensure suitable travel options are available for employees to return to the office or home after the event as appropriate. This might include public transport and/or cabs depending on the finishing time and location.
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