Work Christmas parties and duty of care

The festive season and end-of-year celebrations should be enjoyed, but the work Christmas party can be a source of anxiety for employers who are unsure of their obligations to their workers.

WorkCover Queensland Industry Manager Melissa Steadman says that many people forget in their excitement at end-of-year parties that they are still attending a work function.

“Particularly if the event is organised and paid for by the employer, the duty of care to workers remains the same as it would if they were at work,” Melissa said.

“When it comes to work Christmas parties, employers need to make sure workers understand what behaviour and conduct is acceptable, and what the repercussions could be if misconduct occurs.”

Employers may be liable for the inappropriate behaviour, including discrimination, workplace harassment/bullying or sexual harassment, of employees at work Christmas parties. Employers should ensure staff are aware of harassment and discrimination policies, and intervene if they witness any inappropriate behaviour.

Melissa added that managers also have an important role to play to make sure the event goes smoothly and people start their journey home safely.

“Responsible service of alcohol should be adhered to, as well as other health and safety precautions at the venue.

“Remember that workers who are injured on their way home from a work function may also be entitled to make a workers’ compensation claim for their journey home so it’s important to ensure that people have access to safe transportation after the party.

“If everyone is clear on their responsibilities beforehand, the Christmas party will be more enjoyable for everyone.”

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Last updated
10 January 2019