Recent Precedent 2011 - Issue 6

Posted on 25 July 2011

Have a “uneventful” Christmas Party and a claim free New Year!

With the Christmas Season upon us, so looms the annual end of year staff party. Whilst this is an opportunity to celebrate the year and have some fun, a few too many drinks can remove inhibitions and lead to some unwelcome and inappropriate behaviour by staff or management.

When planning the annual staff function, employers need to be mindful that whether the event is held at your office or at an off-site venue, during business hours or after hours and whether you invite clients/ customers or employees’ partners. Sexual harassment and discrimination laws that apply during usual business hours and activities still apply to conduct at the Christmas party.

Sexual Harassment includes unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature such as comments of a sexual nature, sexual innuendo and of course unwelcome sexual advances and unwelcome requests for sexual favours. It can even include things like comments about a person’s clothing, body or their dancing. Even if done in a humorous way when everyone is having a good time if the person subject of the behaviour (or even someone who witnesses the behaviour) feels offended, humiliated or intimidated this can be a breach of the laws and can still land an Employer in serious trouble.

Have you reviewed and updated your workplace policies and procedures relating to staff functions? Below are some reminders to ensure you are well protected.

Protecting Your Business

Here are a few tips to ensure that the end of year Christmas party is remembered for all of the right reasons and that the New Year does not bring with it an unwelcome legal claim:
1) Ensure you have a sexual harassment and discrimination policy in place
2) In the time leading up to the party, remind staff in writing and in office meetings, of company policies relating to sexual harassment and discrimination.
3) Be prepared to remove a staff member for excessive drinking or inappropriate behaviour, but ensure they are safely sent home with friends or in a cab.
4) Liaise with caterers to ensure the function catering includes sufficient food to balance the alcohol consumed and that there are plenty of non alcoholic beverages available.