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With the Christmas season well and truly in full swing, that HR email in your inbox about behaviour at staff Christmas parties is worth reading.

Christmas parties are a great way to let your hair down at the end of a hard year - and you've probably deserved it.

However, there are legal implications and pitfalls that come with too much Christmas cheer at the office party - for both employers and employees.

Employers who are hosting an annual Christmas party need to be mindful of their responsibility for their workers. They are obliged to supply food and non-alcoholic drinks plus options for people to get home after the festivities.

Before the event, it’s important to be clear with staff about the company’s relevant rules such as their code of conduct, anti-discrimination and workplace bullying policies; and social media policies.

If something goes wrong, employers, for example, could end up being sued for sexual harassment or negligence depending on the circumstances or the extent of the actions.

As well as the obvious embarrassment that can arise from bad behaviour at the end of year celebrations, employees could be putting their job on the line.

There are certainly cases around Australia where workers have been fired because of the way they behaved at their Christmas party. A Christmas party is viewed as a work function so there are clear risks in excessive alcohol consumption.

Just because you may have been under the influence, does not excuse comments or actions that would not be acceptable in the work place.

It's also important to be mindful of your employer’s social media policy.

Many employers these days have a social media policy and employees need to comply with that – even if they are not at work.

It’s not just your own personal and professional reputation or safety that you need to safeguard, but anything that might reflect badly on your employer could have serious repercussions.

At the end of the day, if employers and workers take some simple precautions, the office Christmas party can be a trouble-free way to celebrate a year of hard work.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

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