With the festive season fast approaching, now is a great time to review your policies which are also applicable during work functions.
A well-planned end-of-year work function can lead to a lot of positives: improved morale, team-building and a good time to be had by all.
However, the well-being and safety of employees must be a priority for employers.
Proactively managing risks by taking some simple precautions (as outlined below) may minimise the chance of a potential claim associated with holding work functions.
Policies which clearly set out the consequences of any misconduct
Employees must be reminded that an end of year party is still a ‘work function’ and as such they are still required to abide by all policies enforced in the workplace.
Despite the festive season fun, food, drinks and music, employers may be held liable for the safety and conduct of their employees (e.g. injuries, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination or assault).
There are a few key policies which need to be in operation during work functions. These include Anti-Bullying, Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy, Drug and Alcohol Policy, Social Media, Internet, Email and Computer Use Policy, Code of Conduct Policy, Workplace Health and Safety Policy and Workplace Grievance Policy.
Employers will benefit from having a Work Function Policy in place which makes specific reference to those workplace policies listed above and must be adhered to during any work function.
Employers must take steps to mitigate risks. Employers are required to remind their employees of the policies in place and where they are located.
It is also prudent to conduct training in the policies, especially for those managers and/or supervisors who are required to monitor and enforce the policies at events such as work functions.
Ensure employees are aware of expectations
Prior to the work function, employers should remind employees of:
- their obligations under workplace policies and general duties as employees;
- relevant workplace policies and standards of acceptable behaviour;
- any particular expectations not already addressed above; and
- the potential disciplinary consequences of failing to comply with their obligations and workplace policies.
Employers should also ensure that managers and/or supervisors are aware of their responsibility to ensure a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and bullying, and to provide a safe working environment for employees, including at the work function.
Venue and function details
Work functions may be held at the employer’s premises or at another venue. In any event, employers have work, health and safety obligations.
Accordingly, employers should conduct a risk assessment of the venue to check for any specific hazards including in relation to entry and exit points.
Employers should also be prepared to address any emergencies or issues that may arise at the party (i.e. an action plan for responsible managers).
Setting strict start and finish times for work functions before the event in writing (in an email or flyer), allows employees to plan ahead while also drawing a line between the work function and any pre/post parties not endorsed by the employer.
Employers have an obligation to ensure employees can get home safely. Employers should ensure that employees are informed of any transport options before the event so that employees can plan ahead.
Preferably, the function should be held close to accessible public transport.
Where alcohol is being provided, an employer may wish to specify that it does not condone any employees driving following the consumption of alcohol and encourage all employees to make arrangements for their travel home prior to attending the function.
Monitor conduct – including alcohol consumption
There are inherent risks with work functions especially when alcohol consumption is involved. Employers can minimise this risk by arranging other activities (other than drinking), limiting hours of service, avoiding self-service, training managers to monitor risks and serving plenty of non-alcoholic drinks, water and food.
If the function is not at a hotel or restaurant, ensure your bartender will discretely refuse or delay service to any intoxicated employee.
Remind your managers and/or supervisors to monitor the conduct of employees during the party. If needed, responsible managers should be prepared to resolve issues that may arise.
In order to do so, managers should refrain from becoming intoxicated.
Remember to have fun!
The following checklist is a quick reminder of what has been discussed above:
- employers are responsible for arranging a safe work function;
- inform employees of your expectations of their behaviour;
- book an appropriate location and stick to start and finish times;
- serve alcohol in a responsible manner with food and non-alcoholic drinks;
- ensure employees can get home safely: and
- have fun!
There is enough time between now and the end of year to put in place these simple steps to minimise the risk of any claims or complaints at your work function.
Employer Assist provides all members with advice regarding all aspects of your workplace and employment law.
We can assist you in understanding your employment obligations in relation to work functions and implementing necessary policies.
Please contact Employer Assist on (07) 3376 6266 or email@example.com if you require any assistance.
This article is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Please contact Employer Assist for advice.
Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.
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