Media Release: Party list to avoid legal hangovers

Liz Jackson, MD of Fairways HR, Perth

THE office Christmas Party season is now in full swing – and it’s a fun time.

But the festive celebrations can become a legal minefield for employers if things get out of hand and they don’t have appropriate policies in place to deal with the potential fall-out.

Leading Human Resource specialists, Perth-based Fairways HR today issued a helpful list that can help staff revellers have fun while reminding employers of their legal obligations.

“It’s all about organisations planning ahead so that everyone can let their hair down but also letting employees know what behaviour will not be tolerated,” said Fairways managing director, Liz Jackson, whose firm was recently awarded an Investors in People Gold Award.

“There are many things to consider and, obviously, alcohol issues are high up the list as is discrimination.

“But, if employers have in place guidelines and policies on, for example, harassment or inappropriate behaviour and staff are made aware of them, then possible legal pitfalls can be avoided.”

Liz and her team at Fairways have come up with a list of measures during corporate festivities that include:

• Plan ahead and consider who is to be invited – is it all staff or staff plus partners? Don’t forget there may be same sex partners and non-Christian faiths;

• Consider food and refreshment requirements for the various religions attending – provide options;

• Limit the amount of alcohol available to ensure a duty of care towards staff;

• Offer non-alcoholic alternatives for those who don’t drink or are under-18;

• Nominate designated drivers or provide transport to get staff home safely; and

• Have clear guidelines and policies in place stating that harassment or inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated – employers are responsible for employees’ actions.

“It’s better but not always possible to have a function at the end of the working week,” said Liz.

“This means that policies need to be in place with employers clearly stating they expect staff to be at work the day after a party if this is a working day, and that they are in a fit state to work.”

She suggested that employers should give themselves “additional protection” by ensuring all staff are aware of company policies including Equal Opportunities and Diversity, and Bullying and Harassment.

“It is vital that employers have the right policies in place for their organisation,” said Liz.

“This time of year is great for everyone to get together to have a good time and there should be no lasting hangover if they follow these suggestions.”

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