A reminder of potential issues arising from work functions
We're on a boat!
It is that time of year again. Client functions and staff
Christmas parties are happening in offices, restaurants, pubs,
function halls, marquees, zoos, on boats, at bowling greens and at
some even more imaginative locations, all across the country.
This article provides a timely reminder of some of the issues
that can arise as a result of these celebrations. Unfortunately,
what is intended to be relatively significant investment to reward
clients or staff and provide a positive experience can sometimes
turn out to be dangerous, costly and counter-productive.
Obligations of employers
Staff at client functions and Christmas parties remain in the
course of their employment. Workers compensation exposure will
generally arise if they are injured during the evening. Workers
compensation legislation is beneficial legislation and entitlements
are provided on a 'no fault' basis
Your duty of care at common law to ensure the safety and
wellbeing of your staff does not end with the crack of a twist top.
Ensure that your chosen venue is safe and there are no reasonably
foreseeable risks of injury arising from your party plans. Your
hosts may well be concurrently liable if responsible for an injury.
However, the duty of care of an employer is non-delegable, and your
responsibility will likely also remain even when the host is at
Occupational Health and Safety obligations similarly apply,
along with the risk of penalties in the instance of a breach
Employers are vicariously liable for the actions of their
employees, including with regard to discrimination and harassment.
Do not let policies in respect of same be ignored in the context of
the party. Alcohol does not bring out the best in everyone
Be perceptive as to how you are being received. Be mindful of
boundaries and relationships that exist during the working day, and
do not disclose information, be over-familiar or imposing, or in
other ways change the parameters of those
relationships in the context of the
These obligations can continue on into the night if the party
moves to a pub or club, especially when management attends and the
corporate card goes over the bar.
Pointers for employers
Enquire as to whether there has been a safety audit of the
premises and as to any risk management policies
Review occupational health and safety and drug and alcohol
policies andensure staff are aware of them
Provide adequate food with alcohol
Enquire as to dietary requirements, including allergies and
moral / religious diets
Ensure adequate security is available, including as to the
prospect of gatecrashers
Monitor the festivities and provide assistance to anyone who
appears to be significantly affected by alcohol
Intervene immediately if an abuse of power or potential
conflict situation arises
In the instance of illness or injury, call an ambulance
Set a finish time for the event. Announce the conclusion of the
evening at that time
Where viable provide the option of transport, such as a bus or
cab charge vouchers.
And for employees...
Remember that this is not a night out with your mates from
football or your friends from university
Eat when you drink, and remember to drink water
At client functions, remain dignified and in control,
regardless of how much fun the clients seem to be having. This is
not the night to achieve Youtube fame
At staff parties, choose a costume that leaves something to the
imagination and avoid drunken career limiting moves.
Keeping all of the above in mind should assist in ensuring a
successful event ahead of a merry Christmas and a happy new
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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