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Ask EdSeptember 2, 2015

Ask Ed (Last Updated On: November 9, 2016)

Client Query

If an employee is at a work related function, outside of normal hours, either hosted by our company or by a third party, am I required to pay for staff members to get a taxi home? Sometimes our staff are required to be at an event until quite late at night. Of course I want to make sure they all get home safely, but it can end up being very expensive – particularly with those that live more than an hour away.

Ed’s Answer

We get this question a lot, especially as the festive season approaches and many of you will have organised office parties, functions with clients offsite and other events.

The short answer to your question is no, you are not required to pay for staff to get home from work related functions.  However, employers need to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety and welfare of their employees.

In addition to this, whether the event is onsite at your workplace or at an external venue, these functions are considered to be work related and behaviour at these functions is covered by the same rules that apply in the workplace.  Employers need to be mindful of potential workplace claims that may arise from inappropriate conduct or a related health and safety issues at these functions.

If you are concerned, some reasonable steps to reduce the risk of potential issues are set out below:

  • Prior to the event, send an email to all employees reminding them that the function is a work event and company policies will apply to it
  • When organising the event, ensure that there is adequate food and there are non-alcoholic drink options or low alcohol beverages
  • Remind staff about safe drinking and responsible behaviour
  • Ensure that there is some monitoring of the consumption of alcohol. This can include advising the venue of the limitation of the service of alcohol and making sure the venue adheres to the principles of responsible service of alcohol
  • If appropriate, set up a ‘buddy’ system so people look after each other, particular after the event finishes and people are making their way home
  • Start and finish times of the function should be clearly set out prior to the event. You should also include a statement that if staff choose to move onto another venue after the organised function has ended, the new venue is not part of the work sanctioned function and their safety is their own responsibility
  • Advise employees that they are expected to make their own arrangements for travel and provide them with options such as assigning a designated driver for the night, public transport, arrange for a friend or relative to give them a lift or share a taxi with colleagues/friends

Employees have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions for their own safety and the safety of others and they are expected to behave in accordance to company policies and procedures.

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