Christmas and New Year considerations: IR expert

Friday, 19th December 2014 // Cotton Matters // Comments (0)

Industrial relations expert Bob Kellow (Industrial Mediation Services) outlines considerations for the Christmas and New Year period. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees at work-related functions and should take reasonable precautions to prevent inappropriate behaviour.

That time of the year again, and it’s not called the silly season without reason.

If you are considering Christmas functions then it is important that you revisit the messages of previous years and ensure that you are not spending the first few months of 2015 defending claims of harassment, inappropriate behaviour or worse, following your well intended Christmas party.

There is no doubt that a well run end of year celebration can have significant benefits for both the business and employees however the potential for something going wrong can have serious ramifications. It is therefore essential that employees be advised beforehand that whilst it is an opportunity to get together and enjoy the celebrations it is a work related function and all the rules that apply to the workplace including policies relating to bullying and harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment remain in place and employees should consider their behaviour and obligations with that in mind.

Employers do have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well being of all employees at work related functions and should take reasonable precautions to prevent inappropriate behaviour. Claims for workers compensation, harassment etc will escalate over the Christmas period. Such apparently innocent activities such as ‘Secret Santa’ gifts, joke staff awards etc. may have the effect of offending the person or others within the group.

Employers can decrease the chance of poor behaviour by putting in certain measures such as;

  • Ensuring responsible service and consumption of alcohol
  • Providing adequate food and non alcoholic drinks
  • Ensuring that all employees are aware of the standard of conduct required
  • Having delegated supervision present
  • Taking timely and appropriate action should incidents occur
  • Ensuring that employees have made suitable transport arrangements
  • Have a set time that the function ends and ensure any remaining alcohol is cleared away 

Employers should have clear policies in place and ensure they are confirmed with employees prior to the function, and enforced during the function.

Encourage employees to enjoy the event but at the same time maintain certain standards that would be expected during the normal course of business.