All employers need to consider the potential hazards which may arise when holding an office Christmas Party. An employer may be held liable for injuries of employees travelling to or from a work function as well as any injury arising from the behaviour of employees during celebrations. “Injuries” includes suffering from harassment or intimidation, unwanted sexual advances or being subjected to offensive language. All employees attending the party should be made aware of their responsibilities and what is considered appropriate behaviour.
Employees should be made aware that a Christmas party is a work activity, and as such, normal disciplinary procedures will apply in the event of any harassment.
Employers must also ensure that all health and safety requirements are met by inspecting the function venue prior to the party. A risk assessment should be conducted to identify and eliminate any potential hazards, bearing in mind that attendees may be under the influence of alcohol.
Only qualified personnel are permitted by law to serve alcohol, as required by the responsible service of alcohol regulations. It is sensible for employers to issue advice to employees prior to any party about the risks of drink driving. Employers may also wish to organise a mini bus or make available details of a local taxi organisation in an attempt to ensure employees enjoy their night and return home safely.
Workplace policies covering harassment, discrimination, alcohol and drug use, dress code and acceptable behaviour and disciplinary procedures would assist to minimise the potential liability for employers. All employers should have such policies in place for their ongoing protection.
For further enquires regarding employment policies or employer’s liability, please telephone Kevin Dwyer or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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