It's that time of year again – the office Christmas
party when you thank your bosses for their kind, considerate and oh
so wise decisions throughout the year. You say how right they were
to chastise you when you deserved it and docking your pay really
taught you a lesson and how much better for it you are now.
And it's the time of year when you sidle up to colleagues
you have admired from afar all year and impress them with your wit
You might have a silly hat on and be carrying your fifth or
sixth drink, your shirt undone and you demonstrate your amazing
rendition of singing Khe San just like Jimmy Barnes, and it is only
just and fair that you are appreciated as a truly wonderful
administrator and thanked by all your underlings for being a
Ah yes, the Christmas Party - scene of many a disgrace and
embarrassment, regretted romances, forgettable fumblings and
karaoke disasters. These days, with everyone armed with camera
phones and videos and the instant transfer to social media the Xmas
Party is the most dangerous time of year.
Workplace law expert Nathan Luke of Stacks Law Firm says
everyone – employee and employer – should remember the
same workplace rules that apply to behaviour in the workplace also
apply to work functions. That includes places that are away from
the office and are outside work hours.
"All those rules of the workplace such as sexual
harassment, bullying, abuse, discrimination, unwelcome touching or
over-familiarity, suggestive comments and off-colour jokes that
humiliate or embarrass work colleagues also apply at the Christmas
Party," Mr Luke said.
"Courts have even supported the sacking of employees who
breached the workplace rules hours after the office Christmas party
in hotel rooms." Mr Luke says there's no need to be the
Christmas Grinch, but it is wise for employers to give a gentle
reminder before the party that unwelcome conduct is not
Employers have a duty of care to their workers at the party, and
it would be a good move to be alert for vulnerable staff, provide a
safe venue, keep an eye on alcohol consumption and help people home
with a taxi voucher.
To meet potential problems, employers should have a clear
complaint resolution process. Workers who find themselves without a
job after their behaviour at the office party might have cause to
appeal and should get specialist legal advice. As you set off for
the annual office bash the best advice is to be festive, not
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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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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