In brief

December is swiftly approaching and with that comes all of the Christmas related work functions and revelry. Unfortunately, it is also that time of year where employees tend to get a little too ‘festive’ at work functions which can cause headaches for employers. Whilst there is no course of action that employers can take to entirely prevent inappropriate conduct at work functions, there are a number of preventative steps that employers should take in order to minimise the associated risks.

What you need to know

  • Employers can be held vicariously responsible for the actions of their employees at work functions.
  • There are a number of things that employers can do to reduce the risk of any employee misconduct occurring and to minimise vicarious liability.

Most employers are aware that they can be held vicariously liable for the conduct of their employees at work related social events. Employers can reduce their risk by taking a number of preventative steps as set out in the checklist below.


  • Distribute workplace policies and remind employees that as the function is a work related event, they are expected to comply with the relevant policies (discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, alcohol and drug use etc.).
  • Warn employees about the consequences of unacceptable behaviour.
  • Make sure that employees below the legal drinking age do not drink.
  • 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.
  • 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, address the conduct immediately.
  • Ensure that everyone vacates the premises at the end of the event.
  • Don’t organise, or pay for, drinks at alternative venues after the event is finished.


While employers cannot completely eliminate any employee misconduct at a work function, taking the above preventative 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 headache free work Christmas Party!

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