Christmas time is here again, meaning you will more than likely be attending a Christmas function.
End of year functions can be a great way to de-stress and bond with your colleagues. But be mindful that your behaviour could cost you.
Christmas parties are notorious for an increased chance of safety-related issues, over intoxication and in serious cases bares the risk of sexual harassment or discrimination allegations. Whether the party is in or out of the office your behaviour should be an extension of what would be expected in the work place during office hours.
A recent court case from 2018 stated:
Sione Vai v ALDI Stores (A Limited Partnership)  FWC 4118
Facts: Mr Vai attended a Christmas party organised by ALDI for its Warehouse Operators. The party was held in a private room at the Hotel and the costs of the room hire, together with food and drinks, were met by ALDI. At the party Mr Vai allegedly threw a beer glass and its contents in the direction of other employees. He was fired, and then claimed to have been unfairly dismissed.
Held: There was a valid reason for Mr Vai’s dismissal, it was not unfair. Even though the employees had not been hit by the beer glass, there would have been serious consequences if they had been.
The court said: “the fact that Mr Vai was intoxicated might be viewed as a mitigating factor, but it does not enable him to avoid responsibility for what occurred... The amount of alcohol that ALDI budgeted for was also limited, and this was not a situation where unlimited supplies were available throughout the course of the evening.”
Notes for Employers
Employers have a responsibility to protect the welfare of their staff. If you are an employer, it is recommended that you send your staff an email regarding the expectations of staff during your Christmas party. An employer’s duty of care to their staff means that they should provide information about hazards and risks and set out the expected behavior of staff during the event.
Employers should also keep in mind that they are responsible for making sure that staff get home safely from the events. Arrange transport if necessary. Be mindful of staff leaving the Christmas function and make sure that they have a safe way of getting home. Order an Uber or taxi for staff is necessary.
If staff will be "kicking on" after the work function, be sure to make it known to them that the organisation is not responsible for employees outside of the set party hours. This can prevent claims that the organisation is responsible for any injuries that may occur after the party.