2020 has brought many changes to the way we work, live and play but the beloved (and occasionally infamous) institution of the office end of year party seems to be safe and well, at least in Australia. However, the changes to working arrangements brought by the pandemic do impact on how workplaces should approach their festivities.
Whether you are having an in person office party or a virtual one, you still need to keep your employees safe and take all reasonable steps to avoid unlawful discrimination, harassment or other liability risks arising out of the event. Here a few tips to keep in mind as we head into the festive season:
Review your office policies relating to equal opportunity, sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, workplace health and safety and social media. Make sure they are up to date and that they cover the possibility of a virtual office party or any changes which need to be made due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Remind staff about expectations
Send a friendly but firm reminder to your staff ahead of the party, referring to the applicable policies.
Remind staff that normal workplace standards of behaviour still apply, even outside of standard working hours and outside of the normal work venue.
Time frames and details for events
Ensure there is a designated finish time for the event with arrangements for staff to get home safely e.g. (taxi vouchers).
Make sure that the party/event complies with your State or Territory COVID-19 restrictions.
Make sure at least one senior staff member does not consume alcohol (or only very low amounts, such that they remain sober at all times) and is available to keep an eye on staff at the event. This person should:
- be familiar with applicable policies
- have the authority and ability to, for example, have a quiet word with a staff member who has ‘had a few too many' and give them directions about behaviour
- make a note of any incidents which require their intervention
- liaise with venue staff (if any) responsible service of alcohol, and
- have the authority and ability make decisions about whether someone needs to be sent home in a taxi.
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.