man sleeping in the office after a christmas partyEnd-of-year and festive season celebrations abound at this time of year in offices and businesses across the country.

While enjoying these activities, it’s important for employers to remain mindful of their duties and responsibilities to their workers, and to ensure that the organisation is protected from potential risks arising from these events.

End-of-year parties, if organised, paid for by the business, or held on work premises, are considered to be work functions. Therefore, the same duty of care applies as to any other work activity.

Poor behaviour fuelled by alcohol or the increased informality of the holiday season can lead to injuries as well as claims of workplace harassment/bullying or sexual harassment, for which the employer would be liable. Requirements for the provision of a safe journey home also often apply, as they would for other work activities.

To help manage the risks to workers and the business, employers should:

  • Remind staff of harassment and discrimination policies before the event
  • Communicate expectations about behaviour prior to the event
  • Check the venue for hazards
  • Set a firm end time for the function
  • Appoint a manager to supervise the function
  • Adhere to guidelines for the responsible serving of alcohol
  • Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks
  • Intervene quickly if any inappropriate behaviour is being displayed
  • Ensure there are options for safe transport home.

Another aspect of the Christmas season that should also receive attention from employers is the increased risk to workers of the pervasive pre-Christmas rush. Tight deadlines and heavy seasonal workloads often result in fatigue, cutting of corners and a consequent increase in accidents and incidents. Workers should be reminded not to compromise their adherence to safe work practices, and employers should ensure that worker safety is still being put first despite the seasonal pressures.

QRMC hopes all our readers enjoy fun and safe Christmas celebrations with their colleagues.