With the end of the year celebrations fast approaching, amidst all the fun and frivolity (and alcohol), it’s important to remember that what you do at the office party can affect your employment.

By Lynette Lyons

Employers shouldn’t be too quick to dust off the office policies and procedures and give their staff members a refresher about the company’s sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination policies and procedures at the start of the Christmas party, however, employers should keep in mind that it is their responsibility to ensure their employees safety.

Office Christmas parties have been found by the Fair Work Commission (“the Commission”) to be “work-related functions” and as such, your conduct at the office Christmas party is therefore directly relevant to your employment and you can be dismissed due to your behaviour at a Christmas party in some circumstances.

To help you out this silly season, we have put together a helpful guide of what not to do at the Office Christmas party.

1. Don’t drink irresponsibly

Sorry to be a party pooper, but irresponsible drinking at an office Christmas party is (anecdotally) the leading cause of misbehaviour. Whilst the Commission has found that employers have an obligation to ensure responsible consumption of alcohol, employees also have an obligation to ensure that they drink responsibly.

2. Don’t get into a fight

Whilst this is just good life advice and, to be frank, common sense, employees have been dismissed, and had their dismissal upheld by the Commission, after getting into verbal or physical altercations at the Office Christmas party. Taking our advice in 1. above will probably assist with making sure you don’t get into a fight.

3. Don’t act in a way that could cause serious damage to your employer’s reputation

Posting a harmless photo with a chilli margarita in your hand is harmless right?

Your company may wish to maintain a certain image and as a staff party can be an extension of your workplace, you are still required to maintain the standards that you would while working your regular hours.

This is quite a broad category and includes posting social media pictures of drunken shenanigans whilst either in work uniform or tagging or otherwise identifying your employer in the pictures.

4. Don’t sexually harass anyone

As with point 2., this is something that you shouldn’t be doing at any time of the year, however the social lubrication offered at Christmas parties combined with the relaxed atmosphere can lead some people astray. Even something which you consider innocuous and that might seem “in the spirit of Christmas”, such as pretending you are Santa and inviting your colleagues to sit on your knee, is territory that should be avoided.

5. Don’t gossip

This is a tough one as alcohol is known to loosen the tongue. Whilst gossip might seem harmless, it has the ability to stray into bullying in some circumstances, so it’s best to keep it to a minimum.

Merry Christmas

This article might seem like it’s been written by a party-pooper, but it’s important to remember that a bit of free booze at the office Christmas party is not worth risking your employment over.

If you feel as though you may have behaved contrary to our tips at your own work function, our friendly solicitors are ready to help you out of a pickle.

Have a happy and safe Christmas everyone and remember to drink responsibly.