Employers reminded to celebrate the end of 2020 safely

End-of-year work celebrations are likely to be very different this year as employers face new risks and challenges to provide a safe environment for their staff.

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For employers to fulfil their duty to provide a safe and healthy environment at events, it’s critical that they comply and are aware of the COVID-19 restrictions that apply to individual events. It is also imperative that managers and business leaders remind their staff of the expectations around COVIDSafe behaviour.

Aside from the obvious, albeit unlikely, risk of contracting COVID-19 in Victoria, there are also other risks to consider, including mental health considerations.

During the chaos of 2020, many employees have been stood down, worked reduced hours, or worked from home, and attending an end-of-year celebration or Christmas party may be either unwelcomed or overwhelming for some.

This can increase the risk of employees developing, or exacerbating pre-existing mental health issues, especially if they are particularly anxious about socialising or seeing their colleagues after many months.

Employers are reminded that work-sponsored end-of-year events are legally considered “in the course of employment” and part of the employment relationship. Therefore, employers are legally obligated, so far as reasonably practicable, to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.

What managers and leaders need to do

Employers should document the reasonable precautions they will take to address COVID-19 risks at any in-person function, including ensuring there are control measures in place and supervising its implementation.

Checks should be made that the COVIDSafe practices of potential venues are sound, and offer workers transport options to limit the use of public transport.

Most importantly, managers need to remind staff to stay home if they feel unwell.

Management should also remind staff of hygiene safety and explain any social distancing and mask-wearing requirements determined by the venue. While not specific to 2020, managers should also monitor and ensure that staff or guests do not become overtly intoxicated to where it poses a risk.

Management must always lead by example and be designated to supervise behaviour and ensure workers are complying with restrictions.

The guest list

While many businesses choose to include vendors, suppliers, clients or partners as part of their celebrations, businesses are being urged to show restraint and aim to have moderate gatherings.

Along with the risk of virus contamination, it is often more challenging to control non-employees’ behaviour at events, and their presence can make staff uncomfortable in large group settings due to the fear of COVID-19 transmission.

Employers must consider staff safety concerns and try to make reasonable accommodations so that everyone can feel safe and welcome at any end-of-year event, and should consider restricting invitations to staff only.

How we can help

The Victorian Chambers Health Safety and Wellbeing team are highly qualified and experienced in reviewing, preparing and improving your procedures and practices in regards to any safety management needs.

For more information, HSW consulting, training and other support please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au to discuss your needs. 

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