What happens at your Christmas party might not stay at your Christmas party...

Whilst we are fast moving into the festive season now, your business should now be planning and preparing for any work Christmas parties and end of year functions from a HR perspective. Why? Because what happens at your work Christmas parties and end of year functions might not stay there, and could impact and infect your business as you close out the calendar year and move into the New Year, rendering your business vicariously liable for the conduct, or rather misconduct, of your employees. Taking some key steps will minimise that risk, so your business is not dealing with the aftermath of those functions in the New Year, which can result in complaints, claims and litigation.

There are a number of key steps your business should take to ensure such events run smoothly and minimise risks to your employees and your business, especially where alcohol is going to be served.

Key risk management planning steps for your business to mitigate the legal risks should include:

- Email your team to inform them that your HR policies and codes still apply at your work parties and functions, and that they are expected to behave appropriately, whilst of course celebrating their successes for the year and get them to prepare for how they are going to get home safely once the function ends;

- Set clear start and finishing times for your function, and ensure that there is responsible service and consumption of alcohol throughout the event, with sufficient food and non-alcoholic drinks available;

- Whilst they may think they have drawn the short straw, make sure your managers and supervisors supervise their teams at the event and authorise them to act quickly - if employees are too intoxicated, arrange for a taxi for them to go home, if they see inappropriate or unruly behaviour, they should step in and stop it immediately;

- Ensure everyone leaves the event safely, use taxis and escort employees from the function to their taxi to get home safely if necessary;

- Make it clear that any after parties are in the employees own time, and at their own cost, risk and responsibility;

- Follow your HR policies and procedures, if there is an incident and follow up or an investigation is necessary on the return to work, make sure this happens in accordance with your procedures and if disciplinary action needs to be taken, implement this in a timely manner.

IR Legal Solutions can assist your business in the planning and post function stages of an event if required, including incident management and investigations.