Too many glasses of wine are a no-no at work Christmas functions.
Too many glasses of wine are a no-no at work Christmas functions. Emma Channon

Lawyer urges employers to treat xmas parties like workplaces

EMPLOYERS are being warned they could be up for unexpected WorkCover costs if an employee is injured at the office Christmas party.

Injury compensation lawyer Mark O'Connor says workplace laws still apply at functions employers organise, including Christmas parties or work retreats.

He also warns employers to be mindful of camera phones and social media because what happens at the office Christmas party no longer stays at the party.

Employers should consider insisting workers realise the potential for the "career suicide" momentary lapse in judgment being shared via Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, Mr O'Connor said.

"The rules for being a responsible host also apply to employers who organise or pay for an office Christmas party," he said.

"If an employee drinks too much during a work function and is injured as a consequence, the employer could face some unexpected costs.

"If a drunk employee is injured at an office Christmas party, or even after they have left it, a potential compensation claim by the worker could mean the employer being hit with extra Work Cover premiums, as well as being responsible for the employee's medical costs".

Mr O'Connor, from Bennett and Philp Lawyers, said Christmas revelry was no excuse for people to overlook the wider issues of safety, especially when alcohol was involved.

"Employers ... should realise that they are partying within a workplace environment and need to be aware that while the office Christmas party can be great for team morale purposes, there is also the risk for things to go out of control," he said.

"Alcohol can change people's personalities and simmering workplace disputes can spill over into violence too.

"Employers should consider careful planning prior to holding the party in order to avoid some potentially messy situations later.

"While it is easy for Christmas party warnings to be dismissed as a 'party pooper' stunt, the reality is that when people sober up later, it is always possible that party excesses could become subject to legal action".

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