Five myths about end-of-year work parties

14 November 2023

It’s November already and many businesses will be planning their well-deserved end-of-year staff celebrations. But what if these celebrations take a turn for the worse?


As we all know, end of year fun can quickly turn into headaches for managers and HR teams based on some bad decisions.

So, what are the myths and pitfalls? Our expert Workplace Relations Consultants share their insights for this festive period and help you prepare for anything that might come your way.

Myth #1: The obligatory ‘read our policies and behave yourself’ email to all staff is enough

We’ve all seen these emails. Of course, it’s a good idea to send them, but this option alone will not cover your obligations or liability. Unfortunately, the email probably may not even be read by most staff.

Building a positive workplace culture should have started many months ago, with constructive messages, regular reminders and managers who are properly equipped and supported to reinforce and model good behaviour.

Nonetheless, it’s better late than never. With careful planning, your end of year party will have suitable safeguards in place for the best possible outcomes. If you’re unsure how to prepare, get in touch with our team for some practical tips.

Myth #2: Afterparties are off limits for disciplinary action

This couldn’t be more untrue. The venue(s) your staff attend after your staff event, including the trip home, could be the location for a work-related incident. This means your duties and obligations as an employer (including for example the duty to prevent/eliminate sexual harassment) may apply at those subsequent events – even if they’re not organised by your business.

Generally, if there’s a connection with work and an impact on workplace relationships or business reputation, we can and must deal with any inappropriate behaviour that occurs.

Myth #3: Every incident must be formally investigated

Not necessarily. We always recommend asking yourself whether a formal investigation is the best option to deal with suspected or reported inappropriate behaviour. Of course, formal processes have their place – but it may be best to consider a less formal option such as mediation or similar.

There are numerous factors to consider. We recommend getting measured, objective and unemotional independent advice.

Myth #4: We can’t take any action unless there’s a ‘formal’ complaint

This is possibly one of the most enduring yet inaccurate myths of them all! Whether you’ve received a written complaint or not, once you are aware of a potential breach of a workplace behaviour policy the option to ‘do nothing’ is gone. You can’t ‘unknow what you know’.

Sometimes your staff will raise concerns or complaints but will not want you to act. We need to ensure we make objective decisions about responses to inappropriate behaviour rather than being influenced by misplaced ideas about confidentiality or procedural formality. Some incidents may be so serious you need to act – even if the impacted staff don’t want you to.

Stick to established principles of natural justice and good practice and you are more likely to find a suitable way forward.

Myth #5: We can’t make findings without witnesses

We often hear managers say ‘we can’t doing anything; it’s a he said, she said situation’. The absence of witnesses may make assessment of evidence more difficult but not necessarily impossible.

Experienced investigators have the capability to assess the relative credibility of evidence and understand the weight and standard of evidence required to reach an informed and robust conclusion.

How can the Victorian Chamber help?

For assistance on any aspect of your employment obligations, please call the Victorian Chamber Workplace Relations Advice Line on 8662 5222. Our experienced team are here to give you over-the-phone advice about human resources or workplace relations issues.

Our consulting team has the experience to calmly and expertly support you with your responses to any workplace matter. You can rest assured you are in very safe hands with any fallout from end-of-year party troubles.

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