With the Christmas season just around the corner, employers would be wise to take precautions when planning the work Christmas party to avoid any legal repercussions.
The festive season brings with it an increase in the likelihood of a workplace claim arising from inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment, drug and alcohol use, as well as health and safety issues.
Employers must be wary of these implications when hosting end-of-year celebrations since they are considered an employer-sponsored event. Consequently, employers may be held liable for any misconduct, injury, discrimination or harassment that an employee is subject to at a work-related event.
Before the event, it is important for employers to communicate their business’s code of conduct. Consider sending an email to all employees prior to the event to remind them of their responsibilities and that normal disciplinary procedures will apply.
Employers must ensure they provide a duty of care by OH&S standards to all employees. Employers would be best advised to have a discussion with the venue about their OH&S policies and evacuation plans.
To ensure employees travel home safely, organise travel arrangements to and from the event, such as a mini bus or taxi. Assigning a responsible person to act as supervisor for the event can help protect the safety and wellbeing of all employees. It is advisable to set a specific start and finish time and to clarify that any ‘after-party’ events are not employer-endorsed.
Employers may be held responsible for alcohol fuelled behaviour; a responsible service of alcohol should be provided by qualified personnel. Be sure to supply food and include low alcohol and non-alcoholic drink options and ensure minors are not supplied with alcohol.