As the festive season nears, many businesses are organising social work events to celebrate another year of hard work and success. Employers NEED to be cautious as hosting a Christmas party can be very damaging to a business if efforts are not made to ensure the safety of all in attendance.
Any activity that is organised or promoted by an employer can see them liable for happenings and incidents that transpire, regardless of it occurring within or outside of working hours. This is an evolving space within workplace law as increasing responsibility is being placed on the employer to provide and evidence preventative efforts to reduce social workplace incidents.
Currently, Victoria is the only state to have introduced ‘employer positive duty’ , although it is likely that this will be implemented nationwide in the coming years. What this means is that employers will have a positive duty expectation to take all reasonable and proportionate steps to reduce incidents of discrimination, harassment, and victimisation within the workplace inclusive of organised and promoted events.
In recent years there have been many cases that have seen the employer held liable for injuries and incidents in response to work social events. One of these involved an employee injuring themselves in a hotel at which a Christmas party was being held, and another was an injury sustained at a Christmas event at an employer’s home where the employee injured themselves on equipment they were explicitly told not to use. In both instances the courts found the EMPLOYER liable, as they had failed to consider and/or to remove the potential risks and to appropriately manage the events.
What can you do to keep your employees safe and to protect yourself? Take preventative measures and run a risk assessment prior to hosting or recommending events, essentially working in accordance with the employer positive duty expectation, by considering:
- The venue location. Proactively assessing the risks and identifying control measures to manage, reduce or eliminate these;
- The risks associated with the facilities and objects within a venue. E.g. A swimming pool, skate board;
- The amount of free alcohol being offered;
- The duration that free alcohol will be served;
- The provision of food to decrease the effects of alcohol and the provision of adequate quantities;;
- The placement of designated individuals to manage the party;
- An explicit party shut down time;
- Safe departure for all attendees. E.g. paid cab fees or organised transport service. The provision of accommodation is extremely risky, and caution is advised within this as accommodation and the associated facilities incorporates another level of risk, alongside the potential for after parties;
- Implementing social conduct training sessions to increase employee awareness of applicable policies. It would be in an employer’s best interest to conduct these sessions prior to events, in an effort to inform and set appropriate expectations;
- A system that demonstrates employee participation in training and acknowledges/evidences individual employee understanding.
- The review of company policies, ensuring that any legislative changes have been incorporated.
If you are looking to host a Christmas event this season, then we strongly advise that you plan with a preventative mindset to facilitate a fun and safe environment for all. If you have circumstance that needs to be investigated, it is advisable that you step back and outsource a HR firm to help navigate this process. Assurance HR Management have a team of specialists that can assist through the provision of inquiry, investigation, and review, to see resolve and compliance within your workplace. Contact us today on 1800 577 515.