Legal update - end of year functions and public holidays

Leading up to the Christmas / New Year period during which many businesses are closed, employers are planning their annual end-of-year function for 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 ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of employees at the end-of-year function, employers should: 

  • Review or establish OSH, discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, drug and alcohol, social media, and dispute resolution policies; ensure these are known to employees. It is best to inform employees by email beforehand that such policies continue to apply at the function. 
  • Make clear 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 OSH obligations are complied with at 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. Employers should also take reasonable steps to assist employees with appropriate travel arrangements. 
  • Appoint a manager or supervisor to monitor and, if necessary, correct employee behaviour at the function. 

Public holidays

Keep in mind that these days are public holidays:

  • 25 December – Christmas Day 
  • 26 December – Boxing Day
  • 1 January – New Year’s Day

An employee who would have performed ordinary hours of work is entitled to a paid absence from work on these days, in accordance with State and Federal legislation. Further, employees who work on a public holiday are 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 NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on (08) 6241 6129 or email