Legal tips for end of year functions

The festive season is upon us and many employers are planning their office End of Year party for employees. Because of many successful claims brought against employers in relation to Occupational Health & Safety (OSH) breaches, discrimination, sexual harassment and workers compensation arising out of work functions, it is important for employers to be aware of their legal responsibilities and the potential risks of holding office functions:

  • Attendance at a work function, even if it is offsite, is considered to be conduct “in the course of employment” and accordingly, employers can be held vicariously liable for conduct which occurs during the function.
  • Employer obligations to employees can extend beyond the actual function itself, to conduct which occurs after the function has ended. 
  • Pursuant to OSH legislation, employers have an obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees whilst at work, which includes the office party.
  • Employers should review or establish OSH, discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, drug and alcohol, social media and dispute resolution policies and ensure that they are known by employees. It is a good idea to send around an email prior to the function reminding staff of these policies and that the policies apply at the function. Employers should make it clear when the function starts and finishes.
  • Ensure responsible service of alcohol, that nobody is excessively intoxicated and take all reasonable steps to ensure employees are able to make alternative travel arrangements to get home safely.
  • A Manager/Supervisor should be appointed to monitor employee behaviour at the function.

Further, we remind employers that the following days are public holidays:  

  • Tuesday 25 December - Christmas Day 
  • Wednesday 26 December - Boxing Day and 
  • Tuesday 1 January - New Year’s Day

An employee who would have ordinary hours of work on these days, is entitled to be absent from work but is entitled to payment in accordance with State and Federal legislation. Employees who are required to work on a public holiday shall be paid in accordance with the applicable Award or Enterprise Agreement. 

Disclaimer: The above guide is not legal advice. For more information or if you would like NECA Legal’s assistance with policy development, contact NECA Legal on 08 6241 6129 or email necalegalwa@ecawa.org.au.