IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME – LETS PARTY!!!!
Yes, it’s that time of the year again when we hold our business Christmas functions, let our hair down, let the drinks flow and generally have a great time to celebrate the end of the year.
Whenever we mix staff and alcohol there is the potential for it to all go wrong – therefore what obligations do we have as employers to ensure that we create a safe environment for all attendees.
- Responsible Host
As the host you have the responsibility to ensure that alcohol is not provided to minors or to people who are already intoxicated. It is not uncommon for functions to have an open bar tab or easily access to alcohol (chilly bins) however you need to ensure that this is monitored to ensure that the ‘free’ access is not abused by those present. You should also ensure that you are providing adequate amounts of food through the times where alcohol is available.
- Social (or anti-social) Behavioural
Although the function may be outside of the usual work hours or away from the normal workplace, the business rules (Code of Conduct) still apply to the behaviours of staff. Therefore, in confirming final arrangements for attendance at the function, it can still be a good idea to remind staff of their obligations to ensure that their behaviours and actions are still appropriate and consistent with workplace behavioural standards, and that potential consequences of inappropriate behaviour may still apply. It is unfortunately not uncommon for allegations of bullying or sexual harassment to arise as a result of a staff function and therefore any witnessed inappropriate (deteriorating) behaviour at the event should be addressed with a cautionary word at the time.
- Leaving the Function
Your duties as a responsible host and employer do extend to ensuring that staff are able to leave the function in a safe manner – i.e. that no one who is intoxicated is entitled to drive a motor vehicle – especially a work vehicle. However, where staff elect to ‘continue the night’ at another venue the responsibility of the employer does cease at the time that they leave your ‘official’ function as you can no longer be responsible for their actions in another environment that you do not have control over. However, as evidenced by the unfortunate “after match” behaviours of some professional sports people, even actions in external environment that have link back to the staff function or the business can still result in disciplinary action of an employment nature, specifically where this has created damaged to the company’s brand and reputation. Staff should therefore be reminded to be mindful of their actions and to consequences of poor or inappropriate behaviour could still be applied.
The above is not to put a damper on your celebrations but rather to seek to mitigate any potential liabilities that may arise when people ‘let their hair down’ at the end of a busy year.