Reminder for employers - End of Year functions

The festive season is upon us and many employers are planning their annual office End of Year party for employees. 

Unfortunately, because of 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, it is important for employers to be aware of their legal responsibilities and the potential risks of holding office functions:

  • 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 liable for conduct which occurs during the function.
  • Employer obligations to employees can extend beyond the actual function itself to conduct which occurs after the function has ended.
  • Pursuant to OSH legislation, employers have an obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees whilst 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 procedures 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.
  • Have arrangements in place to ensure that the office party is conducted in a “COVID friendly” manner

Further, we remind employers that the following days are public holidays.  

  • 25 December - Christmas Day 
  • 26 December - Boxing Day; and 
  • 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 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 on employers’ duties, call NECA Legal (WA) Pty Ltd on (08) 6241 6129 or email necalegalwa@ecawa.org.au.