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Christmas Parties: Employer Obligations and Staff Safety

It’s that time of year again. You and your staff leave the office (or restaurant…or bar) behind to mingle and have fun. Christmas parties are about having a great time, but keeping your staff safe is even more important. Being aware of your obligations and following some common-sense safety tips will keep your silly season celebrations silly in a good way.

Employer obligations

Work Christmas parties are considered “employer-sponsored events” and employers are responsible for employees’ behaviour. Employers have been found to be liable when staff behave inappropriately. In 2015, the Fair Work Commission found that an employee who sexually harassed colleagues and verbally abused his bosses was “unfairly sacked” because his employers provided him with an unlimited supply of alcohol.

There’s no need to ban alcohol completely, but employers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps towards ensuring staff safety.


  • Make sure staff are aware that all workplace policies still apply during the Christmas party, including those regarding harassment and discrimination. Ensure that all workplace policies are updated and easily accessible and intervene if you witness inappropriate behaviour.
  • Adhere to responsible service of alcohol rules and provide plenty of food. Don’t let employees become intoxicated and definitely don’t let them drink and drive.
  • Organise travel arrangements or provide employees with ways to get home safely. Make sure employees have safe access to transportation
  • Don’t make inappropriate remarks or jokes. A good rule of thumb to apply is, if you wouldn’t say it in front of the CEO, don’t say it at all.
  • Set specific start and finish times for the Christmas party. Specify that any extra events the staff attend afterwards are not endorsed by the company.
  • Perform a risk assessment of the venue and check thoroughly for any potential hazards.
  • Send an e-mail to all staff prior to the Christmas party and lay down some rules. Ensure that they know their responsibilities.
Respect is the key. If staff are respectful and considerate, the Christmas party should be one of the highlights of the year.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: December 14, 2016.

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