Employer responsibilities don’t stop at the work Christmas party

The holiday period is just around the corner and the excitement of the annual work Christmas party is setting in.

End-of-year celebrations are an excellent way for employers and staff to reflect on their achievements of the year and to develop their relationships with one another. However, it is also important for employers to consider the potential hazards which may arise and their legal obligations that stand when holding a work function. Employers maintain a duty of care and must meet OH&S standards to ensure the end-of-year celebration does not go awry.

Employers can be placed at risk as a result of sexual or emotional harassment an employee becomes subject to. Areas such as drug and alcohol use, conduct, confidentiality and breach of company policies or procedures need to be given special caution.

All employees attending the party should be reminded of their responsibilities and expected standard of behaviour before the event. They should be informed that normal disciplinary procedures will apply for any form of misconduct that takes place. Setting the standard prior to the party helps to prevent issues and ensures employees are aware of the repercussions if they do not behave appropriately. For serious matters, formal action should be taken in the days following and not simply left to deal with in the New Year.

Employers should visit the Christmas party’s venue prior to the event and carry out a risk assessment to ensure that occupational health and safety requirements are met. This should be done bearing in mind that attendees may be under the influence of alcohol. Even small hazards like a wobbly chair could be potentially dangerous and worth eliminating.

As Christmas parties may involve alcohol, employers must take reasonable steps to ensure beverages are provided responsibly. Alcohol will need to be served by qualified personnel, as required by the responsible service of alcohol regulations. An employer may be held liable for any injury which occurs at an event, as well as injuries of employees travelling to and from the venue. For this reason, it is a good idea for employers to organise safe travel arrangements for their employees, such as hiring a bus or organising uber rides. This will ensure that drink drivingrelated incidents are avoided and employees can enjoy their night and return home safely.

Be sure to define the start and end time of the event and stay clear of endorsing any ‘afterparties’ held once the official work Christmas party is finished. If employees choose to continue partying and the after-party is not arranged by your company, ensure this is made clear. Employers can easily find themselves in a legal nightmare if they fail to do so. Employers should also be aware that actions such as placing a tab behind a bar at an afterparty, could give rise to liability for behaviour into the early hours of the morning.

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Holmans Noosa: (07) 5430 7600 or email info@holmans.com.au
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