Agencies conduct a range of social functions and events such as end of year parties. These functions provide a valuable opportunity for staff to celebrate achievements and to build a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie.
However, as the litigation shows there are often risks arising from employees in the private and public sectors behaving irresponsibly.
While encouraging staff to enjoy end of year events and to socialise with others, it's helpful to remind them of their obligations as employees.
This tool provides some key points about employee and employer obligations and expected behaviours at social functions.
Preparing for agency functions
Employees could be made aware:
- that APS Values and Code of Conduct apply to activities in connection with their employment, which could include behaviour at work sponsored functions or after party events
- of your agency's policies or guidance on expectations of behaviour at social events
- ensuring employees are aware of the potential repercussions of inappropriate behaviour
- reminding employees of the process of making a complaint about incidents that might arise from these events.
Function organisers can consider:
- setting clear boundaries about expected behaviour
- setting clear start and finish times
- ensuring there is responsible service of alcohol
- making non-alcoholic drinks available, and promoting responsible drinking.
Alert your staff to situations where some employees have found themselves in conflict with the Code of Conduct. For example:
- engaging in inappropriate behaviour such as party pranks at the risk of injury to other staff or the employee
- taking embarrassing photos of themselves and others on a work-sponsored trip and circulating the material on social media
- a group of staff elected to 'kick on' at a bar after a work function and during the course of the evening one employee abused and slapped another.
A Fair Work Commission case highlighted the responsibility of employers who provide alcohol at work events, with a decision to dismiss an employee being overturned in part because of a management failure to ensure alcohol was served responsibly to their staff.