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Tips for surviving Christmas festivities in the workplace

Employment Law: 23 March 2019

It is easy to forget in the festive time of year that employer sponsored Christmas and end of year parties are still work related activities, and that means these functions need to be treated as if they were a normal workplace.  Importantly, this can apply notwithstanding the official function is over and staff have left the venue for another place to continue celebrating.

Getting through the silly season is very much about minimising the risks and ensuring employee safety and remembering that as an employer you still have a responsibility to ensure a safe environment during such events.

What are the common risks?

  • With often free flowing alcohol and the celebratory season there is the risk of excessive alcohol and all kinds of behaviour you wouldn't see at other times in the year or when alcohol is not involved.
  • This behaviour can lead to:
    • claims or bullying and/or sexual harassment
    • 'recklessness' around quality of work when trying to Christmas/New Year deadlines or around conduct and behaviour when intoxicated
    • injuries and accidents
    • misconduct
    • warnings and dismissals
  • These things might not just be at the party itself, it could occur at the after it could be posts or photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email.

What you can do to minimise the risks?

  • Ensure policies are in place and employees have been made aware of them and have access to them, including:
    • Drug and alcohol policy
    • Code of conduct
    • Bullying and anti-discrimination policy
    • OH&S policy
  • Remind your staff and manager about their responsibilities
  • Remindthemthat they are still 'at work' during the party
  • Remind staff of acceptable behaviour
  • Have a fixed finishing time for functions
  • Ensure there is responsible service of alcohol (where providing unlimited alcohol, heavy drinking occurs - can be found to implicitly or expressly encouraged excessive alcohol)
  • Provide food and non-alcoholic beverages as a supplement to or alternative for alcohol
  • Provide transport options for employees to safely get home
  • Make it clear to all thatparties after the official party are not endorsed by the employer
  • Have a dress code that is appropriate to a work function  
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