Work Christmas parties provide a well-earned opportunity to have fun with your staff and celebrate your achievements. But employers beware: Christmas parties are a WHS minefield.
Employers are responsible for minimising risks at work functions by:
Checking the venue for safety hazards
Limiting the amount of alcohol being served and ensuring your staff are not intoxicated
Providing suitable transport to ensure everyone gets home safely
Ensuring your employees know the alcohol consumption and behavioural guidelines ahead of time
Christmas should be a happy time, not a time to worry about unplanned workplace claims. To mitigate risk, plan ahead.
Here are the main factors to consider:
The Christmas Party is still a “work activity”
Even if it is held at an off-site venue or outside of normal work hours, your Christmas party is still legally considered a workplace. Remind your employees that appropriate workplace code of conduct still applies. Their behaviour needs to follow the same professional standards as usual.
Alcohol exacerbates the Work Health & Safety risks
Do you have a policy on alcohol consumption at work functions? The potential risks of drunken injurious accidents and sexual harassment are more likely to be an issue if your employees drink too much.
In a 2015 case where an employee was fired for workplace bullying and sexual harassment at a work Christmas party, the Fair Work Commission found that the worker was unfairly dismissed because the employer supplied unlimited amounts of free alcohol1. This costly outcome highlights the need for employers to be vigilant about risk mitigation when planning a work function.
Accidents happen — check for safety hazards
Alcohol can impair people’s judgement and reaction times, so take extra care to ensure there a no potential hazards that may cause a trip, slip or fall. If your Christmas party is being held at off-site venue, inspect the premises ahead of time and make any potential risk areas out of bounds. It is also a good idea to confirm that the venue has Public Liability insurance.
Don’t pay more for your Christmas party than you had planned – make sure you are complying with safety policies and reminding your staff to adhere to your code of conduct.
At WorkPlacePLUS, we offer risk mitigation services, full HR reviews of your policies and procedures and independent workplace investigations for when an issue arises. To discuss how we can assist your organisation, please contact us today.
WorkPlacePLUS is the “Preferred Human Resource and Employee Relations Provider” for Speech Pathology Australia and all of its members.