Responsibility doesn’t stop at the back door.

Posted by Andrew McGiffert |23 Nov 12 | 1 comments

With Christmas quickly approaching and many store social functions underway more senior executives than ever before can now be found liable for safety breaches linked to work Christmas parties. Senior Managers, particularly those in jurisdictions covered by the new Work Health and Safety Act will be called upon if something goes wrong at a Christmas function. 

Claims of work-related bullying, harassment and violence tend to increase significantly during the festive season and employers must take appropriate action to prevent such incidents.

Managers need to recognise that their obligations extend beyond the normal workplace setting and  should be undertaking a risk assessment of proposed Christmas party plans, for example ‘will alcohol be served’ – ‘does the venue have a stair case or balcony that presents a fall risk’, etc. It is important to identify hazards when making  plans and selecting venues. It isn’t acceptable to assume that this will be handled by the Human Resources Department or the social committee.

The following checklist will help minimise the risk level of a workplace event:

  • Make sure you clearly communicate to all workplace participants:
    • Safe alcohol consumption – what is acceptable by the organisation;
    • The repercussions of drinking in excess;
    • The legal driving limits; and
    • The responsibility of employees to drink alcohol sensibly and legally.
  • Ensure that everyone vacates the premises at the end of the event;
  • Take steps to address workplace attitudes that condone excessive drinking prior to the event;
  • Ensure employees below the legal drinking age do not drink;
  • Provide sufficient food and non-alcoholic beverages;
  • Reinforce workplace policies around bullying and harassment prior to the event;
  • Do not arrange or pay for drinks at alternative venues after the event is finished (this extends your liability).
A designated staff member should ensure that policies are adhered to during the event.

 The below table will help you to consider the risks of a social event:


Low Risk

Medium Risk

High Risk


On premises

Licenced premises

Other venues (e.g. the beach)


Non-alcoholic beverages served

Non-alcoholic beverages served, beer and wine

Beer, wine and spirits only


Meal served

Limited Food

No Food


< 2 hours

2-4 hours

>4 hours

Attendee numbers




1 Response

  • Craig/ 03 Feb 13 @ 7:26 AM

    Heya this is my first time here. I came across this blog and found it very useful. It helped me out with some of my studies. Thanks!