Managing the Christmas silly season

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Place limits on alcohol at end-of-year functions and ensure non-alcoholic drinks are offered.

It’s getting to that time of the year again – what some refer to as the dreaded festive silly season.

As an employer there are a few things to be mindful of when the end of the year is rolling around including but not limited to:

End of year shut downs:

The National Employment Standards found in the Fair Work Act 2009 does not provide for an annual close down but there may be provisions in the relevant Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement. Be mindful of any obligations they impose on you, such as providing notice of the close down and the like.

Interaction with other leave

If staff are taking annual leave over the end of year period you need to be mindful of any other forms of leave that may also come into play such as personal leave, public holidays, parental leave, community service leave and/or compassionate leave to name a few.

Refusal to work on a public holiday

The Fair Work Act 2009 (s114) states that an employer may request an employee to work on a public holiday if the request is reasonable. Likewise, an employee can refuse to work on a public holiday if the employer’s request is not reasonable. If you find yourself in this situation please contact us for advice.

End of year parties and work functions

While it may be a headache to organise, the undertaking of an end of year party or function can often be seen as a way that employers can thank their staff for another year of hard work and also allow staff to interact in a social setting. Some employers have taken the approach of using other forms of recognition such as vouchers or hampers, others elect the “family friendly” approach of barbeques and lunches during the day.

What works best depends on you, the business and your staff.

Either way, there are a few things to be mindful of:

Before the event

  • Send a friendly staff email where what is/isn’t acceptable is outlined and refer to relevant policies;
  • If you are going to serve alcohol ensure it is served responsibly (you may want to hold the function at another venue in which case the venue’s RSA kicks in);
  • Ensure plenty of food and drinks are available to everyone;
  • Check that your insurance covers the event.

The event

  • Have a clear start and finish time;
  • Place time limits on the supply of alcohol;
  • Make it clear to staff that post-event activities are on their own time and the company does not endorse any activities that happen after finishing time;
  • Use taxis, shuttles, public transport and/or non-drinking drivers to make sure everyone gets home safely after the party.

Remember as an employer you have the responsibility to ensure that your staff are safe at all work-related functions.

By Abbey George, TCCI Senior Workplace Relations Consultant / Internal Lawyer

The above is by no means a comprehensive list and we encourage you to obtain advice in regards to the above and with all of you employment related matters. You can contact the Helpline on 1300 765 123 or the TCCI on 1300 59 122 or workplacerelations@tcci.com.au 

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