Tis the season to be merry, and many employers and employees are looking forward to celebrating the season with colleagues at staff parties. However, employers need to be mindful that inappropriate behaviour at work functions can impact on the organisation's reputation and leave them open to serious legal claims, including sexual harassment, workplace health and safety, workers compensation, or personal injury claims. In this special alert, our Employment Relations team provide you with tips to ensure everyone enjoys the Christmas party season this year.

Prudent employers can reduce the risks by taking reasonable steps to prevent misconduct and making the function a safe place to have fun. If your company is planning to throw a Christmas party, we encourage you to consider the items in the checklist below.

  • Ensure that your workplace health and safety, bullying, harassment and anti-discrimination policies and codes of conduct, are up-to-date.
  • Send an internal memo to all employees reminding everyone of the company’s policies and codes of conduct, and make it clear that they will apply at social functions. You should also outline the disciplinary consequences if required standards of behaviour are not met. Consider attaching a copy of each of the policies to the memo.
  • Give employees information about the transport options to get home from the event. Encourage staff who are not sure how to get home to discuss this with you before the event. Consider providing a mini-bus or cab-charge vouchers, particularly to employees who have been drinking. You can also encourage employees in the memo to designate a driver who can take a group of people home.
  • Tell staff when the function will end and make sure it ends at that time.
  • If alcohol is available at the event, ensure it is served responsibly and that food and non-alcoholic drinks are readily available. Remind employees that they are expected to consume alcohol responsibly. If you wish to have greater control over consumption of alcohol, you can consider using drink tokens, or limiting the time in which drinks can be served.
  • Ensure appropriate people are appointed to keep watch over the party and are able to intervene if they spot inappropriate or unsafe behaviour. Managers should set an example of appropriate conduct.
  • If inappropriate behaviour is reported, investigate and follow up on it promptly as set out in your company’s policies.
  • If your party is expected to have large numbers attending, you may want to consider having professional security that can watch for unsafe or inappropriate behaviour, and can also ensure only those invited to attend can make their way into the function.