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How to Ensure an Incident-Free Work Christmas Party

Published January 08, 2021 (last updated June 7, 2022) - F2F Manager, ANZ
colleagues enjoying a work christmas party

The festive season is upon us again, and an opportunity to celebrate a year of highs and lows with our colleagues, and employees. Many of whom we have not seen as often as we would have liked in 2021. Unfortunately, these events are not always as smooth running as we would like.  Adding alcohol, fun, and personalities into the mix, we can see risks for business, that need to be managed appropriately.

As we have seen historically from cases such as Drake & Bird v BHP, two employees became involved in a physical altercation with each other which resulted in them both being terminated over their behaviour at a Christmas function. Following the terminations of both employees, they applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and argued that as the event had been at a local bowling club, the organisation’s code of conduct didn’t apply. The FWC disagreed with the employees and found in the employer’s favour that it was still a work function, and therefore in connection with their employment. This case highlights the importance of informing employees that whilst in attendance at these functions they are still representing the company, and as such company policies apply to all employees in attendance.

What Can Go Wrong at These Events?

  • Excessive intoxication
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Physical assault
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Inappropriate behaviour that impinges on the company’s reputation

We need to ensure that we have some appropriate protections in place around these events, as we want our teams to enjoy these functions and return home without any incidents having occurred during the course of the evening. What can employers do prior to these events to take reasonable steps?

How Can You Attempt to Prevent These Issues?

We recommend employers provide bullying and harassment training with all employees within the business, prior to these functions, to ensure that they understand what behaviours constitute bullying and/or harassment, and what ‘in connection with the workplace’ means in a practical sense. 

Alternatively, briefer sessions can be completed within a toolbox talk format to remind employees of policy obligations, and an overview of behavioural expectations at such functions.

Employsure Face2Face can help determine the most appropriate session for your business and have one of our Business Partners come and deliver these messages in the most impactful manner.

What if Something Does Go Wrong?

While we genuinely hope that things don’t go wrong at what should be positive, fun and memorable events, Employsure Face2Face are available to provide support post-event if things do go awry. This can be in the way of a grievance investigation whereby we need to understand further facts of what has occurred prior to determining the best course of action. Where facts have been clearly established, we can assist in the completion of disciplinary processes against employees who have been alleged of misconduct, with support offered as well in the issuing of warnings, through to the termination of employment.

Are you prepared for your end of year function? Ask an Adviser about Face2Face today

Need Help With Your Christmas Party?

Employsure can help you give free, initial advice on work Christmas parties

About Employsure

Employsure is one of Australia’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 30,000 clients in ANZ. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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