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How to stay out of trouble at your work Christmas Function

By Hayley Boswell :: Websters Lawyers

The end of year is almost here and people are looking forward to the holiday season, including the office Christmas party. Everyone’s talking about the shenanigans of last year’s party: Donna’s moves on the dance floor were legendary. Bob’s moves on anything with a pulse were horrifying.

Work Christmas functions can be great fun, but they can also be hotbeds of trouble if things get out of hand.

Here are our top tips for staying out of trouble at your work Christmas function.

work xmas party

1. Remember that you’re still “at work”

It’s easy to go into party mode when you’re at a Christmas function. But despite all the nice food and alcohol, you’re walking a fine line. If your employer has requested or required you to attend, then you’re considered to be “at work”. Even if you’re in a function centre or other venue, this is still the case.

This means that workplace policies will still apply and even though alcohol is being served, you are still expected to conduct yourself in a respectable manner and behave responsibly.

2. Drink alcohol in moderation

Just because the wine is flowing doesn’t mean that you have to drink yourself into oblivion. In fact, if you value your job, you should avoid doing this at all costs.

Alcohol consumption is perhaps the number one cause of Christmas party incidents because the more you drink the worse your judgment.

It’s not appropriate to air your complaints or grievances at a Christmas function. Don’t tell your manager to f… off and don’t tell other staff that you think they’re incompetent.

Avoid drinking alcohol before the function. This will help you to more accurately monitor your intake throughout the evening.

3. Avoid driving to and from the function

Avoid driving, especially if you know you’ll be drinking. Organise a taxi or another alternative. If your employer has arranged transport, then you should use it. This is the employer’s way of ensuring your safety and also fulfilling its legal obligations to provide a responsible celebration.

4. Boundaries are important

Just because you’re at a party doesn’t mean that you can go around hugging, kissing, or even groping your colleagues. And you shouldn’t be dirty dancing with them either.

Remember that you’re still “at work” so you should be treating your colleagues with the same level of respect as you would in the workplace. And if someone tells you to stop what you’re doing, you need to stop straight away.

xmas party

5. Don’t use social media

Social media, alcohol and workmates can be a lethal combination. In a wine-induced haze, you may not realise that a person may have objected to your putting their photograph on Facebook, or that the comment that you put with it was actually discriminatory and offensive.

While you may be able to later delete the content, remember that social media sites keep a permanent record of what you post. If there is a complaint against you, your post becomes evidence of your wrongdoing and your job may be at risk.

It’s far safer to stay away from social media for the evening.

6. Think about the legal consequences

There are plenty of legal consequences for Christmas party antics. Thinking about how your actions may land you in legal hot water may help you to check yourself before things get out of hand.

For example, telling Greg from accounts that you think he’s sexy and you want to bed him may be funny to you, but Greg may feel sexually harassed by your comments and make a complaint, either to the boss, or even to the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

Other examples include:

:: Drug-taking at a work function is an act of serious and wilful misconduct which may result in the termination of your employment without notice.

:: Drink driving or getting into a fight with someone may result in criminal charges against you.

:: Other comments about workers may be discriminatory or serious and wilful misconduct.

:: Breaching workplace policies (for example risking the health and safety of another person) may result in the termination of your employment, a workers compensation claim or a personal injury claim.

7. Pay attention to your employer’s warnings

If your employer has issued warnings or expectations about how you are to behave at the function, pay attention because you have been put on notice about behaviour expectations. The employer is also covering its legal bases just in case there are any incidents.

8. Document any incidents

If there’s an incident, especially if it’s not your fault or if you’re the victim, you need to make sure that you tell someone about it as soon as possible. This could be a friend or relative, or even a manager if you feel comfortable reporting it to work. It could also be a lawyer or police officer.

This is important because, even if you think you don’t need to act on it, you never know how you may react to a situation down the track or whether you may want to pursue it later on.

The more evidence you have, the better. This could be a friend recounting what you told them, or the written record you made of the incident as soon as you got home that night. It is all valuable and can have a strong impact on the outcome of any complaint.

With everything that could go wrong at a work Christmas function, you may feel like staying at home in your fluffy slippers instead of taking the risk of going out. But it’s not all bad. Remembering to check your behaviour and to drink in moderation will go a long way to ensuring that you have a great time at the party and that it’s incident free. But just in case, steer clear of Greg from accounts.

Hayley Boswell

And if you do find that you need a lawyer, either because you caused an incident or were the victim of one, Websters Lawyers have specialists working in every major legal area. We are sure to be able to assist you. Contact us for a free first interview.

This article provides general information only. For advice specific to your needs, you should consult a lawyer.


Hayley Pearson

Hayley Pearson

Co-Creator and Writer for Adelady, she still gets goosebumps that she’s combined her creative passion with sharing the best of her stunning home state.

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