Legal advice for end of year functions

Once again the festive season is upon us and many employers are organising the End of Year party for their employees.

In the past there have been many successful claims brought against employers in relation to Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) breaches, discrimination, sexual harassment and workers compensation arising out of work functions and it is therefore important for all employers to be aware of their legal responsibilities and the potential risks of holding office functions:

  • All 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.
  • An employer’s obligations to employees can extend beyond the actual function itself to conduct which occurs after the function has ended. 
  • Under OSH legislation, employers have an obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees while 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:  

  • 25 December - Christmas Day.
  • 26 December - Boxing Day.
  • 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, contact NECA Legal on (08) 6241 6129 or email