In brief: We have said it before and we will
say it again, there is unfortunately no fool proof course of action
that employers can take to entirely prevent employees from engaging
in inappropriate behaviour at work functions. However, there are a
number of preventative steps that employers can take to minimise
the risk associated with work functions and this year's
What you need to know:
Employers are legally responsible for the conduct of employees
at work related events such as work Christmas parties.
Employers can reduce their risk by taking a number of
preventative steps – inclusive of ensuring that there is a
designated "sober" person supervising the function and
arranging safe transportation home for employees.
Most employers are aware that they can be held to be vicariously
liable for the actions of their employees at work functions. This
is concerning as the social atmosphere of work functions, not to
mention the consumption of alcohol, often leads to employees
exercising bad judgement.
The good news is that there are a number of things that
employers can do to reduce the risk of any employee misconduct
occurring and to minimise vicarious liability.
Here are our recommended preventative steps:
Remind employees that as the function is a work related event,
they are expected to comply with the workplace policies and
distribute the relevant policies (discrimination, sexual
harassment, bullying, alcohol and drug use etc.).
Warn employees about the consequences of unacceptable
Specify clear start and end times of the function and ensure
alcohol is not served after the end time.
Serve alcohol responsibly and ensure that non-alcoholic drinks
and food are available.
Make sure that employees below the legal drinking age do not
Ensure that there is a designated "sober" person who
is keeping an eye on the revelries and taking appropriate action
should any issues ensue (this person is usually the HR Manager
Ensure that safe transportation home is available and advise
employees that they should not drive if they are intending on
If an employee is acting up at a work function, 'nip it in
the bud' immediately.
Don't organise, or pay for, drinks at alternative venues
after the event is finished.
Ensure that everyone vacates the premises at the end of the
While you cannot completely eliminate any employee misconduct at
a work function, taking the above steps will assist in minimising
risk. If you have any queries about any aspects above, please
don't hesitate to drop me
We hope that you have a fun, and disaster free, work Christmas
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.Madgwicks is a member
of Meritas, one of the world's largest law firm
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