Mitigating potential misconduct during end-of-year functions

Prioritise a cautious attitude

As we fast approach the festive season, it is often a time for celebration and a chance for employees and employers to socialise in relaxed environments. It is often seen as an opportunity to build on existing working relationships and/or develop new ones. However, often, and unfortunately, celebrations over the festive season can cause a rise in employee misconduct for a myriad of reasons, with the consumption of alcohol often a main instigator as to why this misconduct takes place. As a result, employers who hold celebratory functions should be cautious of the possible ramifications and take precautionary measures to minimise the risk of inappropriate behaviour.

How can you keep your business safe?

In order to mitigate the risk of employee misconduct at end-of-year events, employees should be reminded in advance of the applicable workplace code of conduct and grievance procedure. Proactively reminding employees of their obligations may serve as a deterrent to any behaviour that could breach the policies and be considered ‘misconduct’.

In addition, with the inherent use of mobile phones these days, moments are often captured using mobile phones and this unfortunately may include those moments constituting inappropriate behaviour. This can pose a risk to both the business’s reputation and also to the implicated employee. Having established policies that govern the appropriate use of mobile phones and sharing of pictures and information which are related to the business will help ensure that employees are aware of their obligations and what work-related content (or information obtained during work-related events) can be shared.

Employers should also remain mindful that the consumption of alcohol during festive celebrations can often lead to poor choices and/or behaviour, resulting in inappropriate behaviour taking place. Employers should therefore, to the reasonable extent possible, enforce the responsible service to and/or consumption of alcohol by employees at work-related events. Depending on the nature and circumstances of these events, employers may also have to give consideration to the health and safety of employees travelling to and from work-related events. This could mean having established transport plans for the end of the event which are communicated to employees.

What steps can you take to mitigate misconduct?

It is an unfortunate reality for business owners and people & culture teams that end-of-year functions, which are meant to be a time for celebrating a relaxing, are plagued by inappropriate conduct or unfortunate incidents taking place. Despite this unfortunate reality, organisations can take proactive steps to mitigate the chance of such inappropriate behaviours from taking place. This can be done through the following means:


  1. Making clear the standard of expected behaviour by individuals attending the event.
  2. Consider what risks may exist to the health and safety of employees attending the event and take steps to mitigate these risks, e.g. ensure the responsible service of alcohol (if possible) and that individuals have a safe trip home if the event finishes late at night.
  3. Have policies that have been previously communicated to employees which govern behaviour and use of mobile phones and social media (as examples).
  4. Have established mechanisms for employees to report instances of misconduct at these events and ensure that those individuals who do speak and raise issues feel supported.
Your reputation is everything. Do you have an integrity partner to help you make the right decisions? We can help.

About Deb Nelson

Working as a Detective with NSW Police for 15 years, Deb has specialised in investigating child protection as well as other high profile matters in elite special investigative teams. Deb has unique skills to navigate the complexities of dealing with families and community stakeholders to safeguard the community. As a passionate investigator, she strives to achieve fairness and equality for all.

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