Sober Reality Of The Office Christmas Party
It’s that time of year again – the office Christmas party when you thank your bosses for their kind, considerate and oh so wise decisions throughout the year. You say how right they were to chastise you when you deserved it and docking your pay really taught you a lesson and how much better for it you are now.
And it’s the time of year when you sidle up to colleagues you have admired from afar all year and impress them with your wit and charm.
You might have a silly hat on and be carrying your fifth or sixth drink, your shirt undone and you demonstrate your amazing rendition of singing Khe San just like Jimmy Barnes, and it is only just and fair that you are appreciated as a truly wonderful administrator and thanked by all your underlings for being a fantastic boss.
Ah yes, the Christmas Party – scene of many a disgrace and embarrassment, regretted romances, forgettable fumblings and karaoke disasters. These days, with everyone armed with camera phones and videos and the instant transfer to social media the Xmas Party is the most dangerous time of year.
Workplace law expert Nathan Luke of Stacks Law Firm says everyone – employee and employer – should remember the same workplace rules that apply to behaviour in the workplace also apply to work functions. That includes places that are away from the office and are outside work hours.
“All those rules of the workplace such as sexual harassment, bullying, abuse, discrimination, unwelcome touching or over-familiarity, suggestive comments and off-colour jokes that humiliate or embarrass work colleagues also apply at the Christmas Party,” Mr Luke said.
“Courts have even supported the sacking of employees who breached the workplace rules hours after the office Christmas party in hotel rooms.”
Mr Luke says there’s no need to be the Christmas Grinch, but it is wise for employers to give a gentle reminder before the party that unwelcome conduct is not welcome.
Employers have a duty of care to their workers at the party, and it would be a good move to be alert for vulnerable staff, provide a safe venue, keep an eye on alcohol consumption and help people home with a taxi voucher.
To meet potential problems, employers should have a clear complaint resolution process.
Workers who find themselves without a job after their behaviour at the office party might have cause to appeal and should get specialist legal advice.
As you set off for the annual office bash the best advice is to be festive, not foolish.