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Ask Our Specialist – How to Handle the Christmas Function

Published December 11, 2017 (last updated November 19, 2020) -

As the Christmas season gets into gear, employers are reminded of their liability at end of year social functions. These are a great activity for the whole business, but failing to manage it properly can cost an employer.

If the work Christmas party is organised and paid for by the employer, the duty of care remains the same as though it was in the workplace. Employers are therefore advised to clearly outline what is inappropriate behaviour and what the repercussions can be if misconduct takes place.

Given the function is likely organised and paid for by the employer, there is also an obligation to ensure the event is free from discrimination and bullying. Employees should be reminded of harassment and discrimination policies and employers should also be prepared to intervene if they witness any such behaviour.

The celebration atmosphere also means there is a high chance of alcohol being present, which brings with it additional challenges for employers. The duty of care to staff extends to employers needing to ensure the service of alcohol is responsible and employees don’t overindulge.

Employers are also advised of their obligations in ensuring staff get home safely. If an employee is injured on their way home from the function there is a fair chance the employer could be faced with a workers’ compensation claim. As such, preparing transport home is a highly effective way to minimise the risk employers face in this case.

Christmas and end of year events are often enjoyable nights, and if employers take precautionary measures they can ensure an enjoyable night for everyone. For advice on where the liability of employers ends, employers should call Employsure on 0800 568 012.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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