By Michael Selinger
As your organisation looks to have an end-of-year party, company directors and officers must consider their obligations, even if they aren’t attending the function themselves, to ensure that they aren’t liable for any incidents.
Because bullying, sexual harassment, and even violence can sometimes be common at workplace functions this time of the year, directors and senior officers are frequently exposed to claims or complaints as a result of out-of-hand behaviour.
Each year, we hear stories of incidents and claims brought against individuals and companies.
In order to reduce the risk, there are simple strategies to implement.
For starters, directors and officers should ask:
- Am I confident that everyone in my business understands what behaviour is acceptable and what conduct will be considered unacceptable?
- Do senior managers and workers know what the repercussions can be if misconduct takes place?
- What systems does my business have in place to ensure this understanding is achieved?
If you’re a director or a senior officer in the company and you don’t know the answer to those questions, you still have time to fix this gap.
This is important because senior officers can be liable for breaches by workers in respect to laws that make bullying and harassment unlawful.
Also, the business can be directly liable under health and safety laws as well as be vicariously liable for the misconduct of staff under anti-discrimination laws.
What should your business have in place to reduce the risk?
The best way to ensure people know what is acceptable behaviour – and what is not – is to have clear, written policies about it.
Most organisations tend to have a few policies that overlap when it comes to end of year functions, such as an alcohol and drug use policy, a respect in the workplace policy and a social media policy.
Importantly, a reminder of these policies should go out to staff before the end-of-year function.
There is little value in leaving matters up in the air and hoping for the best.
Managers in particular are advised to remain focused at these functions. This is because they have an important role to play to make sure all goes smoothly and people find a safe mode of transport to get home.
If your managers have not been trained in these policies, or don’t know what to look out for at functions (and how to manage any incidents), then be sure to get that refresher training in shortly.