TIS the season to be jolly with employers being warned of the hidden hazards at the office Christmas party.
Bennett & Philp director Mark O'Connor says employers need to remember that workplace laws still apply at functions organised by the company.
"At this time of the year as businesses prepare for their annual Christmas function it's important to remember that the rules for being a responsible host also apply to employers who organise or pay for an office Christmas party," O'Connor says.
"If an employee drinks too much during a work function and is injured as a consequence, the employer could face some unexpected costs.
"If a drunk employee is injured at an office Christmas party, or even after they have left it, a potential compensation claim by the worker could mean the employer being hit with extra Work Cover premiums, as well as being responsible for the employee's medical costs."
O'Connor says the Christmas spirit was no excuse for both employers and staff to overlook the wider issues of safety, particularly when alcohol is involved.
"While the office Christmas party can be great for team morale purposes, there is also the risk for things to go out of control," he says.
"While it is easy for Christmas party warnings to be dismissed as a 'party pooper' or 'Grinch' stunt, the reality is that alcohol can change people's personalities and simmering workplace disputes can spill over into violence too.
"Staff also need to realise that when the office party is officially over and they party on to clubs or private parties, the employer is no longer legally responsible for their safety.
"If they go on to a club or another party and get injured, they can't blame their boss. There's a point in the night when people are totally responsible for their own behaviour."
O'Connor says employers should consider enforcing ground rules before the event, including restricting alcohol to a defined period, providing low-alcoholic drinks, refusing service to intoxicated guests, establish a formal end time for the party and arranging transport for afterwards.
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