With the festive season fast approaching, talk inevitably turns towards end of year celebrations such as Christmas parties. Social workplace Christmas functions can have a number of favourable benefits for both businesses and employees like developing better working relationships and boosting workplace morale.
These events should be enjoyed by all involved, but it is important that employers take the appropriate steps to prevent the possibility of such a positive event from being spoiled. Being aware of, and prepared for, any potential risks or consequences can help reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes occurring such as sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination as well as health and safety breaches.
Employers should be aware they can be held liable for certain inappropriate behaviour at workplace functions, even if such behaviour is associated with good cheer and intentions. To prevent any issues that may arise, which are often the result of the consumption of alcohol, it is essential that employees clearly understand what is expected of them at these functions and that employers understand their obligations and monitor the event.
To minimise employer liabilities, it is recommended that the following considerations be made prior to the function:
- a start and finish time is established;
- employees are made aware that the usual standard of behaviour is expected as it is a work-related function;
- communicate that company policies continue to apply at the event; and
- encourage carpooling and designated drivers if employees intend to consume alcohol.
At the actual event, employers should make the following considerations:
- ensure that no employee feels obliged to drink;
- ensure it is a safe environment;
- always provide food if alcohol is being served;
- monitor individual behaviour and consumption of alcohol; and
- ensure there is safe transport for employees who have consumed too much alcohol.
Having policies and procedures such as drugs and alcohol in the workplace, bullying and harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment that are effectively communicated to all employees can further help employers manage risks and reduce the chance of the function ending on a sour note.
For further advice about your obligations and responsibilities regarding workplace functions, Business SA has a team of dedicated and experienced Business Advisers that can assist you. The service is free for members and provides unlimited access to verbal advice. Call the Telephone Advisory Service on 08 8300 0101.