You’ve organised a fabulous night out.
You’ve got your outfit.
You’ve had your hair cut.
You’ve talked your significant other into coming along.
You’re good to go.
It’s time for the biggest social event of the year for your workplace…. The Work Christmas Party!
Let’s get this party started
November and December are upon us and that means that the official work Christmas party season begins! It is the perfect opportunity for employers to reward and show gratitude to their employees for their hard work and commitment throughout the year.
But before we don the tinsel and switch on the fairy lights, it’s also a time to be aware of the potential risks with work social functions… especially if alcohol is part of the celebrations.
The Christmas party reality
As an employer, you need to be aware that a work Christmas party, even if it is after hours and off-site, is still considered to be in the course of employment. So, what does this mean for you? As part of your role as an employer, you still have a duty of care to provide a safe work environment and your workplace policies still apply.
I’m potentially liable for employee’s behaviour
This is the part where we share exactly why you need to be thinking about more than just the party itself. The term “vicarious liability” refers to the situation where the employer is held responsible for the actions of an employee.
This liability arises provided the employee conducts acts in the course of their employment. Employer’s liability also extends to the responsible serving of alcohol and ensuring that staff return home safely after a work function at which alcohol is served.
In simple terms, if you’re the business owner and you provide a Christmas party that includes alcohol and bail out early and let the festivities continue, you would be unaware of what happens from that point onwards. But even though you don’t know what occurred, you’re still potentially liable for the responsible service of alcohol to be in place and to make sure your employees get home safely.
What can I do?
To protect your team, you are required to take all reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of your workers. There are a few steps that you can take to ensure you reduce the risk where possible.
For a start, communicate exactly what is expected of your employees. Never assume that they should know.
Be the person you want them to be. Think about how much alcohol will be distributed and act in a responsible way.
You could also consider putting a few team members in place to keep an eye on the festivities.
One of the smartest moves you could make is to have an official end to the Christmas Party. That way, everyone is clear on when it’s coming to a close and can make arrangements for the next step.
But the best part of all this advice is that it will help you and your team enjoy your special event!