‘Tis the Season to be Merry…and Careful
By John Vizzone
For most businesses christmas time represents the end of another year and the chance for employers to celebrate the year with their hard-working employees with a christmas party.
Whether it is a long boozy lunch or an evening cocktail party, the work christmas party is entrenched in the Australian psyche.
And while I will never be the christmas grinch and am prone to celebrating with one too many beverages, the lawyer inside me warns people that while christmas is a time to be merry it is also one where employers need to be careful.
Over recent years there has been an explosion of cases and legislation which mean that businesses need to carefully manage their end of year festivities.
Cases have included christmas party punch-ups, an unfair dismissal claim by an employee who was sacked after being bullied and headbutted, workers compensation claims by workers injured at the party, and various other incidents. Sexual harrassment and discrimination claims also too often also arise out of christmas parties.
There are many laws which govern the christmas party. If a worker is injured at the party they will usually be entitled to commence a workers compensation claim. In some instances, where they go afterwards can also fall under workers compensation. There is a famous recent case where a worker who was injured having sex after attending work was able to bring a claim.
Directors and Managers within a business are also captured under the Work Healthy and Safety laws as “PCUB’s” or “Persons Conducting Undertakings and Business”. Under the Act they can be held liable and heavily penalised for failing to maintain a safe workplace. The christmas party function becomes an extension of the workplace and incidents at the party can be captured under that Act.
Surely that is an incentive to ensure that your christmas party does not degenerate into a scene of the Wolf of Wall Street.
I therefore offer these tips to have a successful Christmas party that minimise your risks of ending up in a messy legal battle that will be worse than any hangover you may have.
- Advise invitees in advance that all workplace policies will apply to the official christmas function. Also advise them that any unofficial christmas party or drinks will also be governed by workplace policies.
- Designate a person to remain sober and oversee the event. This person ideally should be trained in first aid and be the point of contact for any concerns during the party for both employees and the venue.
- Make sure your insurances policies cover the event.
- Ensure the responsible service of alcohol and that plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages are made available to employees.
- Set an official start and finish time to the event and make it clear that any further event or after party is not sanctioned by the business but that workplace policies may still apply.
- Organise suitable transport arrangements to encourage and help employees to go directly home after the event.
- Enjoy yourself!
If you want specific advice regarding your christmas function (before or after the event) please do not hesitate to contact Partner John Vizzone who has vast experience acting for employers and employees. Please call John or his secretary Janele Neville on (02) 9667 1271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org