Its Office Christmas Party Time…
We are entering a dangerous season of embarrassment, drunken karaoke performances, regretted romances, forgettable fumblings and saying things about colleagues or bosses you later wish you hadn’t.
Yes, the office Christmas party is upon us once again and while grog salesmen and karaoke bar owners rejoice, employees who, flushed with festivities lose their professional façade and do silly things, may not.
There’s one big important rule to remember at office parties – the same rules that apply to behaviour in the workplace also apply to work functions, even if it takes place away from the office and outside work hours.
Sexual harassment, bullying, abuse, discrimination, unwelcome touching or over-familiarity, suggestive comments and off-colour jokes, inappropriate gifts and awards or personal questions that are too personal – they are all still a big no-no.
Employment law offers no excuse for what you do while drunk at an office Christmas party, and that can make it a busy time of year for lawyers helping those handed dismissal notices the next day or helping employers deal with a colleague in disgrace.
To avoid problems, it helps for employers to lay the ground rules early. Perhaps a simple email to tell those attending the party what sort of behavior will not be tolerated.
No need to be a Grinch, just a gentle reminder beforehand that unwelcome conduct is not welcome.
Employers do have a duty of care at work functions and should be wary and look after vulnerable staff. Be mindful of the venue – is it safe? Keep an eye on alcohol consumption. Help people home with a hired vehicle or taxi vouchers.
Have a clear complaint resolution process. Be conscious that the law is not always clear as to when a work function ends and private time begins.
All common-sense stuff but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded at this time of year.
The best advice is, as always: workers – be festive, not foolish; employers – plan ahead and take precautions.