Preventing HR headaches at your EOFY party

Tuesday June 14, 2022

With the news that the Fair Work Commission has upheld the dismissal of a Westpac employee for out-of-hours conduct, it’s a good time to think about how you manage staff gatherings.

The Westpac dismissal was the result of two incidents that occurred during a sundowner, which followed a compulsory professional development day at Optus Stadium in WA. At the sundowner at a nearby pub, each employee was given a wristband that gave them access to free drinks and finger food.

Over the course of the evening, two incidents occurred, which subsequently led to the employee being dismissed by Westpac. Although he appealed the dismissal, the FWC has upheld it.

For employers, this is a reminder to consider the necessity and appropriateness of alcohol at work-related events. For employees, it’s a reminder that out-of-hours behaviour may have a sufficient-enough connection to employment to warrant disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

With this in mind, if you’re planning an EOFY gathering for your team, it’s worth letting your employees know about expected standards of behaviour. Also, have systems in place to prevent any issues arising.

Implement policies and procedures

Every company should already have a Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination Policy in place. Prior to hosting a staff gathering, check that this policy specifies points around the behaviour expected of employees at work functions, specifically around the excessive consumption of alcohol. Ensure employees are aware of these policies and procedures.

Nominate a manager to remain sober and offer supervision

At least one senior staff member shouldn’t drink alcohol, in order to supervise employees and monitor behaviour. This person should have enough authority to be able to intervene in escalating interactions, and also be able to ensure employees can get home safely.

Send a memo out to all staff

Prior to the event, email all employees to remind them of company policy and procedures. This email reminds employees of their obligations under the company’s policies and encourages them to be safe and responsible at the function. It also provides evidence that the employer took all reasonably practicable steps to prevent conduct in breach of its policies.

An good example of this is:

Dear {first name},

After a busy financial year, we look forward to celebrating with you. Please keep in mind, however, that this is a work function, and an appropriate standard of conduct is expected.

As a work function, our Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination Policy, OH&S Policy and Code of Conduct Policy apply at tonight’s event. Please familiarise yourself with these policies.

We also remind you that the use of illegal drugs and/or excessive consumption of alcohol is prohibited during the event. We reserve the right to refuse service of alcohol to any employee who is behaving inappropriately.

Food and drinks will be provided at event, including alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, please ensure that you eat the food on offer, and drink responsibly.

If you are drinking alcohol, please do not drive home. We are supplying taxi vouchers for employees to make their way home safely.

If, at any point tonight, you feel intoxicated, unwell or unsafe, please ask for help from {name of nominated non-drinking manager}. Similarly, if you are concerned for the safety or wellbeing of a colleague, also seek out {name}.

We hope you enjoy tonight’s event.

Avoid No-shows

Lastly, you’ll likely want to make it clear that no-shows and unauthorised absences the next working day will not be tolerated. You could encourage employees to use their holiday allowance (if they have any remaining) in order to reduce the risk of this happening.

Need help?

EOFY events can be heaps of fun when done right. Speak to your local HR Dept before hosting yours to ensure a good time can be had by all!

Preventing People Problems

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