Christmas party - Do you know your Employer Obligations?

Are you prepared for your Christmas party?

It is the time of year when we need to remind our clients how to be prepared and host a Christmas party that is memorable for the right reasons. HR Gold Coast

– In a bid to bring joy, rather than dread, to those hosting an event we have put together a checklist of measures for quick reference:

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  • Spend time planning your event and ensure that members of the leadership group are part of this process.
  • Choose an appropriate venue ‚ ¨ assess the risks of the location from an WHS perspective.
  • Consider the transport options ‚ ¨ how will your people get there and how will they get home? Do you need to provide transport or is it appropriate to have some petty cash to pay for taxis?
  • Have a clearly stated start and finish time.
  • Have a clear running sheet of how the event will run and stick to it.
  • Make it clear when the event is over.
  • Have a policy for employee behaviour at social functions and communicate it in advance.
  • Remind employees that if they are at a work function they are at work.
  • Have a policy on alcohol use.
  • If you are serving alcohol, serve plenty of food and water.
  • Remember for a policy to stick it is important that it is raised frequently with employees ‚ ¨ discuss the policy in team meetings, email them to the team, have them available on the intranet.
  • The leadership group should model the policy. Non-compliance by the leadership group will undermine the policy.
  • A senior member of staff should be in charge. Do not leave a junior member of staff tasked with controlling the event.
  • Have a clear process for dealing with misbehaviour and make sure the leadership group understand their role in it.

For some Questions and answers on Workplace Christmas Party read on

Q. What HR policies should be clarified before holding a work end-of-year Christmas party?

It’s advisable for employers to ensure they have the following policies in place prior to their scheduled Christmas party:

  • A drug and alcohol policy.
  • Code of conduct/expectation standards of behaviour, or inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
  • Discrimination and harassment policies, including a prohibition against sexual harassment.
  • WHS policy, including a policy against bullying.

Employers may also want to consider devising policies specific to the Christmas party season, or reminders to staff about policies in place and how they apply to functions held during the season.

Employers should communicate their policies and expected standards of behaviour clearly to staff prior to any staff function by means of written communication on staff noticeboards, and broadcast emails to staff and/or posting messages on an intranet or central location and directing staff to that location.Refresher training on policies may also enhance an employer’s ability to enforce those policies.

Q. How can social media use after a work party lead to a bullying claim?

Inappropriate photo posts or other message posts about a workplace party may lead to a claim by an employee against the employee who created the posts and the employer. Those claims can include sexual harassment and bullying.

There have been a number of decisions of the courts and tribunals about what conduct an employee engages in on social media, whether on private computer equipment or in private time, can be actionable by the employer. This area of jurisprudence is developing, but it’s clear that conduct an employee engages in during their private time isn’t always immune from repercussions where that conduct breaches the employee’s employment duties or employer policies.

Federal and state legislation prohibits sexual harassment, and employees now have the ability to seek orders from the Fair Work Commission if they believe they’ve been bullied at work.

It’s important for employers to have policies regarding social media use and to communicate those policies to enable them to defend claims against it or take disciplinary action against staff.

Q. How should HR deal with a work party complaint?

If you a an employer receives a complaint about conduct at a work Christmas party, steps you should consider taking include:

  • Responding in a timely manner.
  • Following any applicable procedures set out in workplace policies that deal with the type of conduct alleged (if such exist).
  • Investigating complaints to determine whether the conduct occurred, and surrounding circumstances.
  • Establishing whether the conduct breached employer policies and/or the employee’s duties.
  • Determining whether disciplinary action is appropriate (if breach findings are made).
  • Communicating the outcome of the process to the complainant and employee against whom the allegations were made.

If you want to make sure that you are ahead of the Christmas party season and any potential problems then give us a call on 1300 332 322 or Don’t let this years Christmas Party give you an employee hangover.

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Case Study: work end-of-year party incidents

In a recent case, the NSW Justice Department dismissed a policy officer after he admitted to touching the breasts of five women during an end-of-year Christmas party. However, a senior manager who had engaged in similar conduct at the same end-of-year party and touched two women didn’t lose his job.The NSW Industrial Relations Commission found that the dismissal of the policy officer was harsh when compared to the sanction issued to the senior manager and reinstated him. That decision was notwithstanding a finding that the policy officer had breached the employer’s code of conduct and ethics, its dignity and respect policy, and provisions of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.In another case, an employee sued his employer and the operator of a boat on which the employer held its party in relation to an incident in which the employee was hit by a person attending a separate work Christmas party on the same boat.

Alcohol was served at the parties and the employee had asked a rowdy group, not staff of the employer, to modify their behaviour, which included swearing.The employee claimed his employer and the boat operator had breached the duty of care they owed to him. The court found that, while they each owed a duty of care to the employee, they didn’t breach that duty because it wasn’t reasonable to take additional steps to protect the employee in the circumstances.

The employee required facial surgery and claimed he suffered permanent injuries including numbness, headaches and loss of memory.

Christmas is nearly here. Yes you read that right. Our Newsletter this month has some great information on how to prepare for your Christmas party to save you a employee issue hangover.Not subscribed yet then get in before this issue goes out by using this link http://eepurl.com/1XiUD

Posted by Fresh HR Insights Pty Ltd on Thursday, 3 September 2015