The Christmas season is now upon us and many businesses have scheduled a Christmas party as a chance for their staff to come together and celebrate the end of the year. While Christmas parties are a time to be merry and to let your hair down, there is a serious side to them that all employers should be mindful of. Office Christmas parties often make the news for inappropriate workplace conduct such as harassment (including sexual harassment), bullying, discrimination and workplace health and safety issues.
Employers need to be mindful that even though staff aren’t necessarily in the workplace working, they are at a work function and therefore employers may be liable for conduct that occurs at the office Christmas party. Employers should also be mindful that there is a risk of WorkCover claims for employees who may injure themselves at an office Christmas party.
To reduce the risk of an office Christmas party going wrong and to protect the employer if things do go wrong, employers should consider, at a minimum:
- Setting a clear start and finish time to the Christmas party.
- Ensuring that alcohol, if available, is served responsibly and there is plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks also available.
- Making arrangements for staff to be able to get home after the event, such as organising a bus to and from the venue.
- Nominating supervisors for the party.
- Prior to the event, advising all employees that the Christmas party is a work event and that they are expected to conduct themselves in a manner which they would in the workplace.
- Prior to the Christmas party, send an email to all staff reminding them of their responsibilities at the Christmas party including bringing to the employees’ attention any policies that may be used for the basis of any disciplinary action if things go wrong at the Christmas party.
- Ensuring there is a complaints process for any issues that may arise after the Christmas party.
- Finally, ensuring that your insurances cover typical Christmas party activities.
After the Christmas party employers should do a follow-up on any incidences that may have occurred, however minor they may seem. All incidences should be documented so that if further issue arises the employer has already documented the incident.
Any questions relating to holding your office Christmas party or regarding any issues that may arise following the party, please do not hesitate to contact HR Law.