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The Work Xmas Party time again

Published 02 Dec 2016

It's that time of year again; the office Christmas party. While we hate to be considered the 'fun' police it is necessary to consider some issues in order to protect the business.

2014 saw the introduction of lower alcohol tolerance drink driving laws and 2016 has seen the new Health & Safety at Work Act take effect.

From a legal point of view the duty of care by Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) and their Officers is very clearly governed by the new Act.

Company Christmas parties are considered to be part of employment, including after hours and even offsite. With high spirits and blurred lines, employers and managers are at risk of not meeting their duty of care. Health & Safety, bullying, harassment, misconduct and subsequent illegal behaviours can become major headache for management.

However, the converse is also true. Workers must still follow all safety procedures in place and they must not endanger themselves or others by their actions or inactions. Just because the Christmas party may take place outside office hours or work premises, it does not prevent management from taking disciplinary action against their employees.

In some cases even dismissal may be appropriate.  The law provides that when an employee's conduct is such that it impacts negatively on the employer's business, conflicts with the employee's duties, or undermines the employer's trust and confidence in the employee, even if it takes place outside of the place of employment, it may provide the foundation for a dismissal, or warrant disciplinary action.

So our shortlist to keep businesses out of trouble is:
  • Ensure you have polices on Drugs & Alcohol, Bullying & Harassment and Disciplinary Procedures.
  • Lead by example - Management must set the tone and standard at the event.
  • Remind staff about acceptable use when it comes to alcohol, and their obligations and consequences with respect to the above.
  • If hosting your party offsite you should conduct a site inspection from a Health & Safety point of view prior to the event.
  • Consider providing taxi chits
  • Provide food and soft drinks