With the end of the year fast approaching, employees are increasingly turning their focus towards upcoming holidays, functions and Christmas parties. Now is the time for organisations to start thinking about the risks posed by end of year events and how those risks can be minimised by putting in place effective strategies to manage employee conduct at end of year functions.

In this article, we look at what steps your organisation should take throughout this period to help ensure that end of year festivities do not turn into next year’s legal issues.

Before the event

Preparation is key to managing employee conduct and behaviour at events. From the outset, all employees should be clear about expected behaviours and managers and supervisors should be prepared to set firm boundaries for conduct at these events.

At the planning stage, your organisation should:

  • be aware of those events which will  be held internally and those external functions which employees will attend;
  • know who will be attending events and cater for the appropriate number;
  • whether or not the event is hosted by the organisation, client or supplier, plan to have at least one supervisor or manager present who is a designated “key contact” for the event and who is to act as the central contact point for any issues that may arise;
  • choose an appropriate venue suited to the event, considering factors such as the layout and transport options home for those attending;
  • communicate expected standards of behaviour to all employees, this is particularly important where employees are attending events hosted by clients, customers or suppliers;
  • run refresher training on appropriate workplace behaviour and the requirement for compliance with policies and procedures; and
  • make it explicitly clear that “kicking on” or other unplanned events are not authorised or endorsed by your organisation.

​​​During the event

It is also important to take steps during the event to ensure that risks and issues are minimised and identified as they arise to reduce the risk of subsequent complaints.

During the event your organisation should:

  • ensure that the “key contact” for the event is aware of their responsibilities and that the venue host knows who this is and how to contact them. The “key contact” should be a senior member of staff who can supervise the event and who has the necessary authority to end the event or direct employees to do not do something;
  • ensure the responsible service of alcohol, where possible avoid unlimited bar tabs and provide sufficient food;
  • ensure appropriate transport to and from the event;
  • as far as possible, restrict after party type events, and ensure these are not funded by the company, for example, prohibiting the use of the company credit card to fund any subsequent activities.

Taking these steps will assist an organisation in preventing issues occurring over the end of year party period.

Returning to work - managing any fall out

It is crucial that if any issues have arisen during end of year activities they are reported to the organisation as soon as possible and the necessary steps are taken to address the issue. This can include taking steps to investigate the matter in a timely manner.