With Christmas and the end of the year rapidly approaching, many companies are thinking about how they will celebrate. Lunch at a local restaurant? A night out in the city? A team building day?
Regardless of how you celebrate, if your function includes alcohol, it is important to remember the following:
Employers have a legal responsibility to protect the health and safety of their employees when attending authorised work functions. Alcohol increases the risk of safety-related incidents as well as harassment, discrimination, and bullying. If these things occur at a work function that is organised or sponsored by the employer, then the employer may be liable unless all reasonable steps have been taken to manage the conduct.
So, what should you do?
Firstly, review your policies. Is employee conduct at work functions (both during and after the event) addressed in your drug and alcohol policy or a code of conduct? Do your employees understand what is expected of them and the standards your organization requires - even at a work party?
Consider sending an email to all employees prior to the event to remind them of these policies, their obligations, and the company's expectations.
At the party, do not have an unlimited bar. The Fair Work Commission noted in 2015 (Vice President Hatcher) when ruling on a dismissal based on events at a work Christmas function that: “in my view, it is contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behaviour at a function but at the same time allow the unlimited service of free alcohol at the function.”
Continuing to serve drinks to an alcohol-impaired employee may lead to legal claims of negligence.
Will the venue ensure the safe service of alcohol? If you have employees under 18 years, servers will need to be made aware.
Some companies choose to appoint a senior staff member to be the event monitor. This person has sufficient authority to ‘have a quiet word” to limit or stop alcohol service.
Other organisations provide security staff to keep emotions or good cheer under some control.
Of course, food and soft drinks should be provided at the event. Small servings of finger food but plenty of alcohol can increase the likelihood of inappropriate or drunken behaviour.
Make sure non-alcohol options are available such as mocktails and make them fun.
Set a clear finish time.
After the event, how will your staff get home?
The use of taxi vouchers is one way to safely transport staff home after the event.
If some of your employees are also required to attend supplier or contractor’s Christmas drinks, then the same risk and liability issues arise. Ensure your policies reflect your expectations and that employees understand the required standard of conduct.
You may wish to develop some engaging educational material to ensure all staff know and understand your organisation’s expectations. DASA can help with that. Get in touch via 1300 230 231 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.