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End of year parties can lead to increased incidences of inappropriate behaviour and potential claims against employers.

David Davies, a partner in Sparke Helmore's Workplace Group in Sydney, said: "This time of year can be difficult for employers to balance the desire to throw a great party to thank their workers for all their efforts throughout the year and to celebrate their achievements with the need to ensure that the party doesn't lead to any breaches of workplace policies or a potential law suit."

"We often receive queries from employers early in a new year about how to deal with the aftermath of a badly planned work-related function, whether it is a complaint about inappropriate behaviour or injuries sustained during an event," he said.

Sparke Helmore recommends that employers take the time now to ensure their appropriate workplace behaviour policies are up-to-date and all workers are aware of them. Our top 10 tips for a well-managed work-related function are:

  1. Remind workers about appropriate workplace behaviour before the event and tell them that these standards apply, even if the party occurs outside of working hours and away from the office.
  2. Review workplace policies on sexual harassment and alcohol and drug use, and ensure that employees are trained in their content.
  3. Warn employees about the consequences of inappropriate behaviour.
  4. Set clear start and finish times for your function and don't serve alcohol beyond this time.
  5. Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks.
  6. Encourage employees to know their own limits when it comes to alcohol consumption and ensure management lead by example.
  7. Ensure that the party venue is close to safe transportation home and tell workers that they shouldn't drive if they plan to drink.
  8. Check the venue for possible hazards and make potential risk areas out-of-bounds.
  9. Appoint a senior employee to stay sober to oversee the function, which may require them to address escalating behaviour, such as sending some people home or even closing the bar.
  10. Deal with all complaints promptly and in line with your procedures.

About Sparke Helmore

Sparke Helmore Lawyers is a firm with more than 700 people working from eight offices across Australia, serving the needs of the insurance, government, financial services, technology, mining, construction and property sectors. Our expertise spans corporate and commercial to construction, workplace to insurance, IP to IPOs, mining to manufacturing, and property to procurement.

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