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Planning for an end-of-year work function and minimizing the risks

With vaccination numbers increasing daily and lockdown lifting, businesses are starting to consider what an end-of-year celebration may need to look like in 2021. It is expected many will take the opportunity to catch up in person, either on the worksite or by supporting their local restaurants or pubs.

Not only are workplaces, and individuals, potentially liable if something goes wrong, but this year there are additional health and safety implications and regulations regarding COVID-19 to factor in.

While end-of-year functions can be an opportunity to socialise, for some, behaviour can go too far. Make sure your leaders know what to do if they see inappropriate behaviour and remind them that they may need to step in as the Christmas party is still a worksite. 

Anti-discrimination and workplace health and safety laws in Australia impose a duty of care on employers to ensure the health and safety of employees not only while they are performing work, but also at events outside of work where there is a clear connection to the workplace.

If an incident occurs at a workplace event, the scope of accountability can extend to not only the business but any individual who could be held reasonably responsible for the event–including directors and human resources.

Employers are required to take all reasonable steps toward ensuring the health and safety of employees, both physically and mentally, before the event.

Typically, during a workplace investigation, the policies and procedures which dictate how we should (or should not) act are put to the test. We recommend undertaking a policy and procedure ‘strength test’ now before you are faced with an investigation.

Workplaces should have:   

  1. Drug and alcohol policies; 
  2. Equal opportunity policies (covering off sexual and racial harassment and discrimination); 
  3. Workplace bullying policies (or code of conduct covering off on this); 
  4. Social media policies (to deal with inappropriate photos and comments from an event being posted on social media); 
  5. Codes of conduct; 
  6. Workplace function policies. 

Performance Advantage can do a full review for you of these policies to minimise any risk to the business, managers, and staff.

In addition to general health and safety considerations, workplaces need to ensure they have a COVID-19 safety plan in place that is relevant to current guidelines

This includes:  

  1. Contact tracing
  2. Social distancing
  3. Hygiene
  4. Health policy
  5. Adherence to any government mandates

If something goes wrong, act quickly and discretely. If an employee is too intoxicated, send them home in a taxi straight away. If you become aware of inappropriate or unruly behaviour managers should take immediate steps to stop the behaviour.

Performance Advantage are here to look over all your policies, do a review and write up a ‘Function Safe Plan’ for you and your employees.

Call Suzanne and her team today.

Suzanne Diprose
0408 897 079