By Mark Cox, Director and Renae Harg, Senior Associate
The work Christmas party provides employers with the opportunity to thank employees for their efforts and celebrate the achievements of the year, and for employees to unwind, socialise and enjoy themselves.
However, there is the risk that consumption of alcohol can turn the festive spirit to festering silliness, so employers must remain mindful of their obligations during the Christmas party. The Christmas party is a work event and employers continue to owe their employees a duty of care, and employees owe their employer and their colleagues appropriate behaviour.
Employers may be held to be responsible for harm caused by its employees to themselves, their colleagues or third parties at the Christmas party.
Employers should mitigate any risks and take steps to observe their duty of care to their employees and maintain employees’ appropriate conduct during the Christmas party.
Some tips include:
- Remind all attendees that they are required to engage in responsible, respectful and appropriate conduct in the same way expected of them in the workplace.
- Be conscious of religious or cultural diversity.
- Set start and finish times for the Christmas party. Food and alcohol should only be served during the set event times.
- If the Christmas party is held at an external venue, arrange for the venue to set an area aside exclusively for the Christmas party i.e. a roped off area or separate area of the venue.
- Nominate a senior staff member to supervise the Christmas party and to promptly address any issues that may arise, for example if an employee is intoxicated and needs to leave the event (and not drive).
- Ensure there is enough food and non-alcoholic drinks available during the Christmas party.
- Ensure responsible service of alcohol by whoever is hosting the Christmas party, whether it be an external organisation or an internally run event.
- Consider placing limits on alcohol consumption by way of a ticket system or a limited tab, rather than having an open bar.
- Ensure there are safe and easily accessible travel options for employees when leaving the function.
- Have fun!
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