In brief

It’s that time of year again when employees have a tendency to get a little too ‘festive’ at work functions. Unfortunately, there is no fool proof course of action that employers can take to entirely prevent inappropriate conduct at work functions. However, there are a number of preventative steps that employers can take to minimise the risk associated with work functions.

What you need to know

  • Employers are legally responsible for the conduct of employees at work related events such as work Christmas parties.
  • Employers can reduce their risk by taking a number of preventative steps – inclusive of reminding employees that they are expected to comply with workplace polices at the event and immediately addressing any inappropriate conduct.

Employers can be held to be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees at work functions. This is concerning as the social atmosphere of work functions, not to mention the consumption of alcohol, often leads to employees exercising bad judgement and behaving inappropriately.

The good news is that there are a number of things that employers can do to reduce the risk of any employee misconduct occurring and to minimise vicarious liability.


Read on for a checklist of the preventative steps that all employers should follow when arranging work functions:

  • Remind employees that as the function is a work related event, they are expected to comply with the workplace policies and distribute the relevant policies (discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, alcohol and drug use etc.).
  • Warn employees about the consequences of unacceptable behaviour.
  • Specify clear start and end times of the function and ensure alcohol is not served after the end time.
  • Serve alcohol responsibly and ensure that non-alcoholic drinks and food are available.
  • Make sure that employees below the legal drinking age do not drink.
  • Ensure that there is a designated “sober” person who is keeping an eye on the revelries and taking appropriate action should any issues ensue (this person is usually the HR Manager – sorry!).
  • Ensure that safe transportation home is available and advise employees that they should not drive if they are intending on drinking.
  • If an employee is acting up at a work function, ‘nip it in the bud’ immediately.
  • Don’t organise, or pay for, drinks at alternative venues after the event is finished.
  • Ensure that everyone vacates the premises at the end of the event.


While you cannot completely eliminate any employee misconduct at a work function, taking the above steps will assist in minimising risk. If you have any queries about any aspects above, we are well placed to assist.

We hope that you have a fun, and appropriately ‘festive’, work Christmas Party!

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