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Work Christmas Party – Avoid the Ho…Ho…No!

End of the year functions are a great way to celebrate the year that has been with your staff and clients. As the year draws to a close, most employees are eagerly waiting to unwind and enjoy all the benefits that the festivities bring.

But before you pop that champagne or make a toast, and whether you are managing the function in-house or through an external party here are some tips to promote a safe and enjoyable celebration that will help you in promoting a positive corporate image.

I know it seems like the ‘Fun Police’ are here to kill the buzz, but trust me, what you lose in being a ‘buzz kill’ will pay dividends in saving you the unnecessary stress and possibly financial burden that a claim or complaint can cost.

As an employer you must take reasonable steps to control the flow of alcohol, and the risks of discrimination, harassment or bullying. Failure to take reasonable steps in managing this may result in vicarious liability or a breach of safety laws.

Set the Ground Rules

Before the event, ensure all employees are made aware of behavioural and corporate expectations. An email or notice to each employee with reference to specific HR policies and procedures and your workplace code of conduct is a good starting point. If you don’t have any policies and procedures that cover conduct including alcohol consumption, and discrimination, harassment or bullying, now might be a really good time to start or a short memo of what is and is not acceptable may work well. This would also be a good time to train your employees on workplace policies and expectations.

Alcohol Consumption

Let’s face it nearly all functions/celebrations would call for alcohol to be served. Make sure you have water and other types of drinks available too and plenty of food and pre drink finger food may also be a big help in digesting that alcohol to minimise the chances of getting drunk.

Appoint a responsible person for the event – the responsible person would be in charge of monitoring behaviour during the event. If you have to evict someone from the party due to a risk to their health and safety or to the health and safety of others make sure you have a procedure in place to get that person home safely.

If you have employees under the legal drinking age, make sure to instruct the bar/responsible person that no alcoholic beverages are to be served to anyone under the legal drinking age.

Behavioural Expectations

As an employer you have a duty of care toward your employees and visitors whether the event is on-site or held off site.

Again, make sure that employees are advised of the dos and don’ts and the consequences they may be faced with if they are found to have acted inappropriately.

Besides individual employees being liable for acts of discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying you as the employer may also be vicariously liable, so make sure you have safeguards in place to prevent such behaviours.

Management should lead as a positive example and should keep an eye out for inappropriate behaviour. Ensure your Managers are prepared and trained to intervene if inappropriate behaviour is observed.

The After Party

When arranging the event make sure that you have fixed start and finish times, if the employees decide to continue partying make it clear that the after party is not a work function, do not permit the employees to continue their partying on the same site as the official work event and do not participate in making arrangements for an after party or it may prove difficult to exclude yourself from any liability or argue that the ‘after party’ was not part of their employment.

Management Review

Employers should debrief after the event on what went right or wrong and document it for consideration and improvement next time.

If an incident did occur during the event, you need to take steps to investigate the incident, gather information/evidence/witnesses and put the allegations to the perpetrator and ensure that procedural fairness is observed.

‘Remember prevention is better than cure.’ So have a great time, celebrate the year’s hard work, unwind, let your hair down and be responsible.

Need help

Workplace Partners will be available throughout the Christmas and New Year period to assist with any queries on 1300 116 400 or email [email protected].

The information contained within this article is for general advice only, to obtain specific advice for your business contact us on 1300 116 400 or email [email protected], this advisory service if free for all members. To find out more about Workplace Partners visit us at

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