Melbourne Cup – reducing the risks of race day revelry

by Nicola Middlemiss03 Nov 2015
Employers across Australia will be anticipating a drop in productivity around today’s Melbourne Cup celebrations – but ignoring the potential risks in relation to your legal obligations could cost you a lot more.

With any workplace celebration come risks for employers – Joydeep Hor, managing principal at law firm People + Culture Strategies, told HC that employers need to take steps to ensure that there is no unfortunate aftermath.

“Employers need to be on the usual watch out,” Hor told HC. “Some risks are just always there with any of these kinds of celebrations.”

Firstly, in relations to keeping the organisation running, there needs to be clarity from employers to employees around what expectations they have of people on that particular day.

“One of the things employers do wrong is making assumptions – for example, if they have an expectation of people coming back to work after a lunch, this should be communicated.

“Communication is absolutely the key.”

Secondly, Hor said, what is deemed appropriate behaviour must be communicated.

“Clearly it’s one of those days where there’s a level of open discussion around gambling,” he said.

“If an organisation is going to be troubled by that, then it’s something they need to turn their minds to. There are also many instances I’ve heard of where individuals within organisations have personal or philosophical views about gambling and don’t want to be put under peer pressure.

“Employers must make it clear that everyone is expected to display respect for a diversity of views and opinions.”

Perhaps more obviously, alcohol can also be considered a danger for employers.

“Remind employees of the policies and procedures in place, as well as the expectations around appropriate behaviour in relations to drinking,” Hor advised.

“The overarching issue is ensuring employees are all behaving in a manner that doesn’t risk anyone’s health or safety.

“This is applicable whether a celebration takes place in the office or offsite – wherever they are, if it’s a work function, employees must comply with these expectations and policies.”

This isn't to say that employees shouldn't enjoy themselves.

“It may be the race that stops the nation, but it is also a chance for employers to celebrate tradition, facilitate team building and boost staff satisfaction as we approach the end of the year,” said Steve Shepherd, employment market analyst and Randstad.

“Australians just want to enjoy the spirit of the Melbourne Cup, regardless of whether or not they take part in the sweepstakes."


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