Home' HR Monthly : December 2018 Contents December/January 2019 HRM magazine 35
ETHICS AND CONDUCT
Help your organisation and its employees
understand their responsibilities for conduct in
the workplace with AHRI’s elearning modules on
different topics including ethics and conduct.
ith Christmas on the horizon,
companies are preparing to raise
their glasses and cheers to the end of
another year. But some are already sensing an
impending headache – end of year parties are
notorious for workplace incidents.
In January, HRMonline asked readers to
share their thoughts on their most recent office
Christmas party. From the survey came some
statistics and more than a few anonymous
anecdotes of reportable incidents – some funny,
some problematic and many alcohol-fuelled.
I reviewed the submissions and have shared
some off-the-cuff thoughts on how these issues
should be addressed.
Q. While on the dance f loor, one staff
member’s partner got a little carried away
and tore the shirt off another staff member’s
partner. In this instance both partners were
men, but one was particularly taken aback.
A. That’s a tough one because the partners
are attending as guests of the employees. Do
you punish an employee for their partner’s
behaviou r? I think the observers are the ones
that would be confronted by it.
If the organisation received any complaints,
I would suggest that the employer tell the
employee (whose partner did the ripping) that
they’re going to send a letter to their partner
outlining that this behaviour is inappropriate
and that going forward, they won’t be welcome
at company functions. That way, any observers
who may have been offended, are assured that
you’re taking this matter seriously and have
cautioned the person in question.
The dock of the bay
Q. While intoxicated, one of our employees
jumped off a boat that was anchored in
the bay. However, they did not injure
themselves or others.
A. If they had inured themselves, or worse,
drowned, that would have been catastrophic.
As it is, the employee would need to receive a
warning, maybe even a final warning. There
also needs to be a focus around responsible
service of alcohol.
In a 2015 case, an inebriated employee made
harassing statements at a staff Christmas party.
After the rules of procedural fairness had been
adhered to, that employee was terminated –
unfairly the Fair Work Comission decided.
Something the Commission said, and we should
all be mindful of, was that an employer has an
obligation of responsible service of alcohol. If
you go to an offsite work event and open a tab
behind the bar, you might think that the bar is
accountable for responsible service of alcohol.
It doesn’t work that way; it’s still a work event.
Employers need to be aware they have a duty of
care. While it’s important to give employees a
warning when they misbehave, the organisation
also needs to determine what transpired to get
the employee to that stage of intoxication.
Some companies will appoint one person to
remain sober and make sure no one else gets too
drunk; sort of like a party marshal.
No pun here, just a no
Q. The organ iser of the office Christmas party
hired a topless barmaid.
A. I’m not easily shocked, but in this era that’s
surprising. I’ve heard of strippers at events
or people jumping out of cakes at retirement
parties, but I haven’t heard anything like this
recently – which is good, we’re moving forward
(or my clients just aren’t telling me about it
anymore). I’m not sure how anyone could think
it was okay, and it could easily be construed as
Whoever organised the barmaid would
need to be sanctioned and issue an apology
to all staff. Not long ago, something like this
might have been dealt with quietly but now
more organisations are being transparent and
admiting the mistake – that shows a level of
grow th. Some might not necessarily disagree
with the practice on principle, but they can see
it’s got liability written all over it. •••
The end of year party can be
such a risk that some companies
want to cancel it completely.
This is how HRM readers feel.
BY AARON GOONREY,
PARTNER AT LANDER & ROGERS
185 HRMonline readers were sur veyed
The most common number of attendees to
a Christmas party was 50-99 people
Almost 19 per cent of respondents said an
“incident” occured at the party
Less than a third of those incidents required
an official report
An overwhelming majority (80 per cent)
enjoyed their organisation’s party
94 per cent think their colleagues enjoyed
76 per cent of respondents said they’d
attend this year’s party
22/11/18 1:25 pm
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