Vicarious liability of employers and the work Christmas party

Vicarious liability of employers is something which all employers should think about at Christmas time. As an employer, you are vicariously liable for the actions of your employees while in the course of their employment. The vicarious liability of employers can, at times, extend to the annual work Christmas party and the shenanigans which can go on at such events.

Christmas is always the time when people gather to celebrate, whether it is work colleagues, family or friends. We celebrate the year nearly finished. We celebrate the friendships we have. We celebrate how great next year will be (hopefully). While most businesses will hold a Christmas function, it is important for business owners to take steps to minimize the risks involved in the annual Christmas function.

Your staff may think the Christmas party is a time to let their hair down and enjoy themselves. However, as an employer, you are vicariously liable for the actions of your staff while in the course of work. The vicarious liability of employers may be extended to your staff’s actions at the work Christmas party.

So, before you and your staff head off to the work Christmas party, take the time to ensure:

  • Your staff are aware that any behaviour deemed unacceptable in the workplace is also unacceptable at the Christmas party;
  • Your staff are aware of the relevant workplace policies including social media, sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies;
  • You and senior staff lead by example when it comes to alcohol consumption and behaviour;
  • There is the responsible service of alcohol at the function as well as adequate amount of food if alcohol is being served;
  • Adequate safe travel arrangements have been made to ensure all staff can travel home safely after the function;
  • You are prepared to de-escalate any situation such as sending staff home if needed or make the decision to close the bar;
  • Set a time when the party will end and stick to it.

While you want your staff to enjoy the Christmas party, you need to think about the risks involved and take action to minimise those risks. You don’t need to be the Christmas Grinch to ensure your work Christmas function is a great success. You just need to be a responsible employer.

Wishing you and your staff a happy and safe Christmas and New Year!

If you would like further information, please contact our Principal, Leigh Avuri on 0402 912 962 or by email: leigh@avurilawyers.com.au.

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