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Manage your Christmas party risk

Ho, ho, ho…it’s time for the office Christmas party! Sending out your standard “company expectations at event” memo? Don’t forget these 3 key inclusions to effectively manage your Christmas party risk.

The office Christmas party provides everyone the opportunity to relax, wind down after a big year and enjoy a few drinks with colleagues. Previous experience (and post-event legal cases) has highlighted the risks associated with these functions and, to demonstrate duty of care, many businesses distribute an internal email around expected standards of behaviour at work-sponsored Christmas functions. Content of these communications typically include:

  • the requirement that attendees’ conduct at a work function must comply with the company’s policies and procedures (such as bullying and sexual harassment)
  • a reminder about excessive consumption of alcohol and responsible service at the venue
  • travel arrangements to and from the event

Three items that should be included in any employer function communication are:

  • start and finishing times of the company sponsored event
  • information about alcohol limits and the effects of alcohol. One simple way to provide correct information is to add a link from your state transport authority. Queensland Transport has information available at:
  • a reminder of company social media policies. Smartphones are now an everyday tool for most of us and ready access to cameras increases the likelihood capturing inappropriate or embarrassing situations at a function. Such photos and posts on social media may give rise to claims relating to defamation and privacy.

Seeking information about your obligations as an employer at work functions? WorkSafe Queensland has an excellent short article around work Christmas parties and duty of care at:

One key takeaway from this article is a caution from WorkCover Queensland Industry Manager Melissa Steadman:
“… if the event is organised and paid for by the employer, the duty of care to workers remains the same as it would if they were at work.”

While pumping out yet another internal directive from the “fun police” might seem overkill, smart employers recognise it’s more effective to communicate company expectations before the function than having to deal with any unexpected aftermath. Follow our guidelines to manage your Christmas party risk and you’ll have peace of mind to enjoy the event yourself.

Merry Christmas to everyone and, if you’re travelling on the roads over the festive season, take it easy and give yourselves plenty of time. And enjoy that break…you did good this year!

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