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Festive Season: Employers’ Obligations to Manage Psychosocial Hazards


With the lead-up to Christmas, many employers have started or are likely to start planning work Christmas parties. Work Christmas parties are a great chance to celebrate a year of achievements with your colleagues over drinks and nibbles.  However, an employer can be held responsible for the behaviour of employees where an employee loses their inhibitions (due to excessive alcohol consumption and/or the use of drugs) at the work Christmas party. Not only bullying and harassment including sexual harassment are more common to occur during such social occasions, but also other serious issues might arise, such as driving under the influence and refusing to obey reasonable and lawful directions.

With the new psychosocial risk regulations, employers are required to identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to psychosocial risks and eliminate those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. Psychosocial hazards include bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. This means that employers are required to risk access and manage psychosocial hazards by using the 4 steps risk management process, namely identify hazards, assess risks, control risks and review control measures. The ACT Code of Practice in Managing Psychosocial Hazards at Work provides practical guides to assist employers in complying with their duty to manage psychosocial risks.

Additionally, employers can take the following steps to eliminate risks:

  • Do your due diligence in choosing an appropriate venue, themes and activities
  • Cap the length of time that free alcohol is provided and provide food when serving alcohol
  • Clear communication to staff on start and finish times
  • Educate employees on risks and reinforce expectations
  • Have appropriate work policies and procedures in place
  • Training or refresh training to staff on the relevant policies and procedures
  • Clear communication on non-employer endorsed activities (e.g., pre-drinks, after parties)
  • Nominate a staff member for proper supervision
  • Ensure employees have a way to get home safe