Understanding these and working together should ensure everybody’s welfare is protected and avoid some of the pitfalls that can happen as the result of poorly managed events. Issues can range from the embarrassment of having ‘one too many’ to serious claims of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Despite a work function being held at another location than the work premises and out of normal working hours, workplace laws still apply and an employer’s duty of care for its employees remain as if they were at work.
Without resorting to becoming the ‘fun police’, it is appropriate for employers to remind their employees about acceptable behaviour, codes of conduct, workplace and social media policies, responsible alcohol consumption and the prohibition of illicit drugs.
This reminder should be in writing and issued before the event so that employees clearly understand what behaviour and conduct is acceptable and what the repercussions are if they don’t act appropriately.
Employers also play an important role in making sure they consider and mitigate potential risks when planning these events, so they run smoothly and people are able to get home safely.
Whether alcohol is involved or not, staff behavioural expectations should not change. Workplace harassment, bullying and even violence can arise during these functions, with serious consequences for both employers and employees if not handled accordingly. It is quite common for complaints to be made after work functions, especially when photos or comments are posted on social media during or after the event. We would recommend reviewing and communicating your social media policies with your team before the celebrations start to ensure they are refreshed on their expectations as employers and representatives of your practice.
Keep in mind events should be inclusive, but staff shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in activities or situations they are not comfortable with. Staff shouldn’t be made to feel pressured to drink alcohol, so make sure to have non-alcoholic drinks and food equates to the drinks package available. Employers and employees both have a role to play in these events.
The following checklists for employers and employees should help keep everybody safe and ensure your event is enjoyable and runs smoothly.
- Consider your employees religion and cultural beliefs, family and caring responsibilities and travel requirements when planning, to foster an inclusive non-discriminatory event.
- Remind employees before the function that workplace policies and codes of conduct will apply and a breach of which may result in disciplinary action.
- A mere reminder about workplace policies is insufficient if employees do not have access to or have not been made aware of such policies.
- Set specific starting and finishing times, reminding employees that a decision to ‘party on’ after the event will not be condoned by the employer.
- Ensure sufficient food, non-alcoholic beverages and water are available.
- Liaise with the event location team to ensure that responsible service of alcohol rules will be withheld and that a nominated member of the team will be notified of any employee or guest in danger of excessive alcohol consumption.
- Provide employees with access to safe transportation after the party and ensure they start their journey home from the event safely.
- Be respectful of others, their opinions and beliefs and conduct yourself appropriately especially if the booking at the event is made under the name of the business. Try to avoid topics that are likely to become heated and, if discussions get too controversial, walk away and get on with enjoying the party.
- Make sure you are familiar with company policies and codes of conduct.
- Drink sensibly and eat well to slow alcohol consumption.
- Look out for your teammates and ask for assistance if you believe somebody’s welfare might be compromised.
- Don’t get drawn into office gossip or behaviour that may be perceived as offensive, lewd or explicit.
- Ensure you comply with your work social media policy – just because it is a party does not mean that the posting of inappropriate images and/or comments will not breach policy. Whether or not a social media policy is in place, the best advice is, if in doubt, don’t.
A well-organised end of year celebration can be really rewarding and moral boosting within the workplace. By following simple steps employers and employees can ensure that the party is inclusive and fun for everybody while keeping professional and personal reputations intact as well as avoiding any legal complications.
Workplace Relations Support
Workplace Relations Support provides AMA Queensland members with email and phone support with assistance in understanding legislation requirements and employer obligations. You can contact us via phone (07) 3872 2264 and email support firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workplace Relations Toolkit
Workplace Relations Toolkit subscribers receive a social media policy template and respect in the workplace policy with their subscription.
Workplace Relations Consultancy
Workplace Relations Consultancy can review current workplace policies and provide advice on how they should be updated to remain compliant.