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Policies, Procedures & SafeguardsOctober 30, 2014
Managing diversity at work functions
The festive season is fast approaching with Christmas and New Year coming up in the next few months. For many businesses across Australia, this means putting plans in place to start winding down for the year and to start planning social events to celebrate with staff. Australians are by nature a diverse group, and any work parties should aim to be inclusive of everyone in the company. The good news is, creating inclusive social events simply involves some forward planning.
A cheeky glass or two is an indispensable part of many parties. However, employers should be aware of employees who abstain from alcohol and certain foods for religious or personal reasons. A simple fix is to ensure that the party menu includes non-alcoholic beverages, while the inclusion of vegetarian food options can cover basic dietary restrictions.
Choice of venue is important if employers choose to hold offsite events. Venues should be accessible if any members of staff have mobility impairments or are wheelchair users.
Employees with children can find it more difficult to join in evening work festivities due to family schedules or lack of carer support. Lunchtime events are usually better suited for employees with family or carer’s responsibility.
Some members of staff may be uncomfortable joining in seemingly harmless activities such as costume competitions or office sweeps. Their reasons can vary from cultural sensitivities to simply not wanting to be the centre of attention. It’s important to make sure that participation is optional.
A less exciting but exceptionally important point to consider are workplace policies. Employers can be liable for incidents that occur at a work function so it’s important that you set clear expectations of employee behaviour at work events. Excessive drunken behaviour for example can make staff members uncomfortable and can discourage them from joining future work functions. At worst, alcohol can trigger discriminatory behaviour or harassment.
Employees should be reminded of policies such as work dress codes, behavioural standards, and bullying and harassment policies. It should be clear to staff that any breach of these policies at work events can result in disciplinary action.
These simple steps can help employers with planning a work function that everyone can participate in. This will help staff feel valued and in turn create a more positive workplace culture.
By Ruth Douglas, Employment Relations Consultant