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Employment Law – Christmas Party Behaviour

With the festive season upon us, a few timely reminders to avoid the celebratory hangover and deal with its effects should it arise. Although we wish all of our staff enjoy the end of year parties and behave themselves, alas this does not always occur.

Below we set out some of the key employment law matters an employer needs to bear in mind:

Do’s and Don’ts

  • do ensure you have suitable workplace policies in place including drug & alcohol policies, bullying, harassment and discrimination policies, WHS policies, grievance procedures and any other relevant codes of conduct
  • do remind and train staff including managers about your relevant workplace policies before the function and, for guidance purposes, give examples of behaviour that is and is not acceptable
  • do empower relevant managers to act if they observe any improper conduct during the course of the function
  • do check your insurance policies to ensure they cover the type of event being held
  • do provide sufficient food (and non-alcoholic drink options) if alcohol is being served
  • do make clear any post-event activities are solely on the employee’s time and not the employer’s and that the employer does not endorse any activities that occur after the official finishing time of the party
  • do assist with organising appropriate travel home for those at risk (eg, those having consumed too much alcohol and where safety concerns arise for those travelling late at night especially solo)
  • do properly and promptly investigate complaints of inappropriate behaviour if they arise
  • do implement fair and consistent disciplinary measures if a complaint is upheld
  • don’t engage in, encourage or condone irresponsible service of alcohol (if you have concerns, ensure that staff member is no longer served alcohol and assist with travel arrangements home)
  • don’t dismiss complaints on the basis of “well that’s just how he/she is” or sweep them under the carpet hoping they will go away

The Sting

Although the party may be held off-site and/or under the control of a third party host an employer can nevertheless still be exposed to claims relating to, and the consequences of, inappropriate behaviour such as:

  • increased use of personal leave
  • work, health and safety complaints including to SafeWork NSW
  • bullying, harassment and/or discrimination complaints including to the Fair Work Commission and SafeWork NSW
  • an adverse action claim to the Fair Work Commission (even if the complainant is still employed)
  • an unfair dismissal claim to the Fair Work Commission (eg, where the complainant resigns because of the relevant conduct)

Going Forward

Whilst it is a time for celebration, reminding staff of behavioural expectations (and the ramifications for inappropriate conduct) in advance of the event will hopefully assist in negating or reducing the risk of things turning sour.

An employment lawyer can assist you with reviewing/updating your current employment law policies or drafting new ones.

More Information

Should you require employment law advice from an employment lawyer, please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team on 9635 7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers.