Nicholas Falconer

Beware Christmas party pitfalls

GETTING excited about the Christmas work party?

Experts have warned to remember it is still work, and to follow this safety guide: avoid sexual jokes, don't drink too much and don't go near the mistletoe.

Commercial law firm Duncan Cotterill has released its 12 tips for Christmas to help employers organise their parties, as well as a few for employees who may need a reminder on how to behave.

Employees are urged to "be mindful", "avoid" or "never" get into certain situations at the party.

Ease up on the wines and be mindful of how much you're drinking.

Keep conversations light and fluffy.

Avoid gossiping - particularly about other colleagues who might be in the same room - and telling off-colour jokes.

It's not the place to hit on the receptionist either - or any other workmate for that matter.

And if you do happen to spot mistletoe in the room, never go near it.

For employers, the tips include having plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages, to help reduce the risk of inappropriate behaviour or drunkenness.

They are also advised to have a sober supervisor on hand and to identify potential health and safety hazards around the party area and how these could be managed.

And mistletoe should never be hung, and avoided if spotted.

Employment law specialist Sarah Townsend said it was important for employers and organisers of work functions to remember that workplace standards of conduct still applied.

Ms Townsend said lawyers dealt with a handful of complaints each year, during a period they called the January fall-out.

During that time they had a number of employers asking for legal advice on complaints, a number of which might result in an employee being given a warning or dismissed altogether.

Employers could face liability for employee negligence and misconduct, as well as liability for breaching health and safety legislation even if the party was held off-site.

The complaints ranged from fights and general disputes which had arisen from the Christmas work party, to more-serious complaints of sexual harassment.

"I guess as employment lawyers we always hear the worst ... We get complaints about fights and arguments and general disputes just from people having too much to drink."

Ms Townsend said the overall and best tip was to exercise common sense.

"It's about having a good time but making sure that you remember that it's still a work function and therefore you should be acting appropriately."

 

HO HO NO-NO'S

  • Ease up on the drink.
  • Keep conversation light - don't gossip.
  • Don't make sexual advances on colleagues.
  • If you spot mistletoe, NEVER go near it.


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