Xmas Work Functions – avoiding the January Hangover

By Justin Lillyman

It has been noted from previous years that calls to the Employee Relations Advice Centre often spike in January with employers seeking advice on incidents alleged to have occurred at end-of-year work functions. 

After all, a safe and successful end-of-year function is not as simple as booking a location and inviting employees to turn up. Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent unlawful behaviour from occurring. 

So, what could constitute reasonable steps?

Here are the top 10 tips for a festive season function that is both enjoyable and safe for all:  

  • Ensure that your organisation has tailored, relevant and up-to-date workplace policies and procedures. CCIWA’s experienced workplace relations team can help with drafting and reviewing organisational policies.
  • Prior to any work-related functions, remind all employees of the workplace policies that apply and the potential disciplinary consequences of failing to comply with them. 
  • Limit the duration of alcohol consumption with a set budget and a clearly defined start and finish time for the event.  
  • Remind organisational leaders of obligations to ensure a workplace free of discrimination, harassment and bullying, and to provide a safe working environment for employees.  
  • Ensure that all employees have received relevant training on appropriate workplace behaviours, including harassment, sexual harassment, and bullying. CCIWA can provide customised workplace behaviour training for your workforce. 
  • Ensure responsible service of alcohol, including plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks.  
  • Organisations should consider appointing a senior manager to abstain from consuming alcohol in order to supervise the function.  
  • Communicate prior to the event the expectation that employees arrange a safe method of transport home.  
  • Any allegations raised regarding conduct at the event should be dealt with in accordance with the applicable organisational policy. If in doubt, seek advice from the REEFWA Employee Relations Advice Centre as a first step. 
  • Ensure that the organisation has adequately trained individuals who can investigate allegations promptly and professionally. CCIWA offers training on Workplace Investigations and can provide tailored courses at your premises. Organisations may consider whether it is more appropriate for the investigation to be handled by an external investigator, such as CCIWA.

The ingredients for your organisation’s end-of-year function are proper planning, backed by relevant policies and procedures. If you haven’t updated your policies within the last two to three years, now is a good time to review them. 

Please contact REEFWA on (08) 9365 7510 or ReefWA@cciwa.com for any further assistance.

Have a happy and safe festive season! 

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