The 'silly season' is upon us and festive workplace
parties are under way.
Employers often choose to host holiday work parties to boost
morale and to reward employees for their efforts over the past
year. Despite those good intentions, employers can face liability
for poor behaviour by employees and liability for breaching health
and safety legislation, even if the party is held off-site.
Employees can also face issues if their behaviour at a work
party has been unacceptable. Those issues can often hurt
employees' careers and even result in instant dismissal.
There are many holiday work party considerations for both
employers and employees to be aware of, so we've put together
some tips for you to ensure a safe and happy festive season.
Employers hosting a work party:
If you are serving alcohol, provide plenty of food and
non-alcoholic beverages to help reduce the risk of inappropriate or
Ensure that you have considered how employees will get home
safety. While you are not required to pay for taxis, if the
function is out of town, or at a remote location provide some
transport to get employees back into town.
While it is important to encourage everyone to have a good
time, employees should still be reminded that normal workplace
standards of conduct will be in force at the party and misconduct
at, or after, the party can result in disciplinary action.
Having a sober supervisor present can help to ensure
everyone's safety. Giving the sober supervisor some guidance as
to what to do in common situations would also be helpful.
Ensure you have identified significant health and safety
hazards and have planned strategies to manage them.
Employees attending a work party:
If you are drinking alcohol, be mindful of how much you are
drinking. Over-indulging could lead to behaviour or conduct that
results in disciplinary action or harms your career.
Keeping conversations light and fun makes it easier to enjoy
each other's company and relax. Avoid talking shop, gossiping,
telling off colour jokes, getting involved in heated arguments and
making sexual comments or advances.
Making an effort to talk to a few colleagues or supervisors who
you don't know very well can be a great opportunity to build
rapport. It can be as easy as introducing yourself on a personal
level and talking about hobbies or interests.
Holiday work parties are an extension of the business. Dressing
appropriately is important, even if you are wearing something
festive or themed.
Following the tips set out above mean that employers can hear
the sound of reindeer on the roof and are less likely to hear the
sound of post-holiday party litigation approaching. Employees will
be better placed to return to their duties after the holidays,
without the threat of disciplinary action hanging over their
If something does happen, the prudent approach is to promptly
take legal advice, because getting it wrong can be costly.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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