End of Year Functions

Leading up to the Christmas-New Year period, employers hold various end-of-year functions for their employees. Such functions, even if they are after hours and off-site, are still “in the course of employment.” This means employers may be held vicariously liable for conduct arising from the function. 

Accordingly, and to fulfil their duty of care to protect the health, safety, and welfare of employees at the relevant function, employers should: 

  • Review or establish work health and safety, discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, drug and alcohol, social media, and dispute resolution policies. It is best to confirm to employees beforehand that such policies still apply at the function and remind them of their nature. 
  • Set forth when the function starts and finishes, such that any continued celebrations past a certain time are ‘unofficial,’ extending beyond the end-of-year function and its scope.
  • Establish that all work health and safety obligations are complied with, as regards the facility in which the function is held.
  • Ensure responsible service of alcohol, if applicable, and that nobody becomes intoxicated. Provide food, water, and other non-alcoholic options.
  • Select an appropriate venue for the end-of-year function, which all employees shall enjoy and feel comfortable in.
  • Provide employees with free travel to and from the end-of-year function. Alternatively, select a location from which employees can easily to and travel from the function: by bus, train, taxi, rideshare, or otherwise.   
  • Appoint a manager or supervisor to stay alcohol-free, monitor and, if necessary, correct inappropriate behaviour at the function. 

The following are public holidays in Western Australia:

  • 25 December (and 26 December) – Christmas Day 
  • 26 December (and 27 December) – Boxing Day
  • 1 January (and 2 January) – New Year’s Day

Under State and Federal legislation, as a starting position, an employee scheduled to perform ordinary hours of work on these days is entitled to a paid absence from work. When an employee is required to work on a public holiday, he must be paid in accordance with the applicable Award or Enterprise Agreement. 

Disclaimer: This summary is a guide only and is not legal advice. For more information, call ECA Legal on (08) 6241 6129 or email ecalegalwa@ecawa.org.au