Xmas parties: how to avoid a legal hangover (free webinar)


Xmas parties: how to avoid a legal hangover (free webinar)

The silly season can be just that – silly! But when staff behave badly, parties can turn into a legal nightmare for employers. Join a free webinar next week and ensure your festive season is trouble-free.

Christmas parties are a fun way for your business to celebrate the end of another year. They’re great for rewarding staff and for allowing them to unwind.

But the silly season can be just that – silly! And when staff behave badly, parties can prove a minefield for costly sexual harassment lawsuits. Particularly when alcohol is part of the mix. 
Today, speaking out against sexual harassment has become a social epidemic and a powerful force. New sexual harassment allegations are hitting the headlines almost daily. This makes it imperative for you to implement policies that increase staff awareness and limit your exposure before the festivities begin.  

What you can do to limit your risk – 12 simple steps

  • Ensure policies are in place, and make them a standing item in induction training and in staff meetings in the weeks leading up to the event.
  • Set the ground rules early by communicating the appropriate standard behaviours – what will and won’t be tolerated – via staff meetings, staff newsletters, intranet or email. Remind staff that the function is an extension of the workplace and their conduct should reflect that.
  • Consider specific staff training in the months leading up to Christmas; focus on what constitutes sexual harassment and discrimination.
  • Consider separate training for managers so they’re aware of their obligations and responsibilities; and are better equipped to deal with any problems, should they arise.
  • Ensure it is understood that sexual harassment is not restricted to females. It can affect men as well. Your policies should be applied equally. 
  • Emphasise the responsible consumption of alcohol. Remind staff that alcohol can lessen or remove one’s inhibitions. 
  • Consider the timing of your Christmas party. If you’re worried about drunken nights out, consider a lunchtime event and make it a family affair by inviting partners and kids. Be very clear about start and end times for the party.
  • Ensure there’s adequate food. Without food in our stomach, alcohol is absorbed more rapidly and we achieve higher peak blood alcohol levels. 
  • Consider having a manager or senior member of staff drink only non-alcoholic drinks so they can remain sober to keep an eye on things. 
  • Act immediately if unacceptable behaviour occurs, and follow that up in office hours to ensure that there are no ongoing concerns.
  • Ensure employees get home safely. Consider supplying cab vouchers or ensure there’s adequate public transport from the venue.

Maximise your care and minimise your risk

If you make boundaries and expectations clear, and communicate them well, you have set the required standard. You have the right to expect certain standards of behaviour from your employees, and you also have the right to impose disciplinary sanctions when those standards of behaviour are transgressed. 


Performance management extends beyond the 9-5 of business. With the party season approaching, Melbourne Cup, end of year celebrations and Christmas parties all causing a potential headache for employers, it's imperative to be a step ahead and plan for the worst. 

Register now for Australian Business Lawyers and Advisers’ free webinar on 'Parties, policies and problems: How to avoid the HR hangover'.

It will be held on Tuesday 30 October from 12pm to 1pm. 

Lawyers Nigel Ward, Joe Murphy and Luis Izzo will share their expertise on being prepared and managing your legal obligations.

This one-hour webcast will provide case examples of what can go wrong and how the damage can be minimised to both the brand and the people.

The webinar will cover:
  • the essential policies to have in place
  • steps to take to prevent incidents occurring
  • what you can and cannot enforce with offsite events, and
  • what to do when things don't go to plan.
Next week: Part 2 – Practical Tips for avoiding risk before, during and after the Christmas party. 
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