As yet another Christmas and Festive Season rolls around, the team at Workwise wishes one and all a very happy Christmas.

Recently we attended an event that reminded of us the Fringe Benefits Tax responsibilities surrounding work Christmas functions and we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you of the Industrial Relations Christmas Grinch and how old “Grinchy” might steal your fabulous festive flamboyance.

Over time, increasing levels of potential liability have been discussed – some very publicly – that may land on employers where Christmas parties and related functions occur. Let’s not go into the publicly reported stories of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct at the year-end celebrations but let’s not ignore the fact that behaviour tends to change a little at social events.

For the past few years, we have provided advice with regard to upcoming work/social events and the following points are worthy of reproduction once more as a checklist for all employers to be aware of.

Prior to the event

  • Remind employees what constitutes inappropriate workplace behaviour;
  • Set clear boundaries about behaviour prior to work-related events;
  • Advise staff of the potential consequences of inappropriate behaviour;
  • Set clear start and finish times and do not serve alcohol after this time;

At the event

  • Take steps to prevent the excessive consumption of alcohol;
  • Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks;
  • Provide transport home for those who are unable to drive due to alcohol consumption;
  • Inspect the venue for hazards and make potential risk areas out of bounds;
  • Appoint managers to stay sober to oversee the function and deal with issues;

Employers who fail to set clear guidelines for staff can expose themselves to significant risk should an accident or injury occur as a result of failure to apply standards. Employers retain responsibility for any event associated with work and organised by the employer even where this is outside of hours and much Case Law now exists which highlight this fact.

In the past, we have heard reports of  knee jerk reactions that have stopped any form of celebration at year’s end which may represent an overreaction to potential risks. Well organised events with clear boundaries allow staff to celebrate and team build in a manageable way and may boost team morale and productivity as side benefits.

In many cases, it has been a pretty tough business year and celebrating the successes should be a memorable occasion.  So ‘plan’ to have fun at your Christmas work function this year, let it be memorable for the right reasons and we look forward to working with you in 2018.

The information contained in this article does not constitute and should not be relied upon as ‘legal advice’. Workwise recommends that legal advice be sought from a suitably qualified legal practitioner prior to any action being taken. Such advice may be accessed via Workwise.