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How to play it safe this festive season

There's nothing like a Christmas party to celebrate the year's achievements with colleagues - but where there is alcohol and a relaxed atmosphere there is also risk. We speak to Stuart King of Risk to Business, Travis Kemp of Marsh and Joydeep Hor of People and Culture Strategies for their advice on playing it safe this festive season.

Video transcript below:

Donna Sawyer, HC TV
Donna Sawyer:
 The festive season is almost upon us and there is nothing like a Christmas party to celebrate the year’s achievements with colleagues.  But before you pop the champagne corks, Stuart King of Risks to Business says it’s important staff understand it’s a work function and rules apply.

Stuart King, Risk of Business
Stuart King:  If people are fully aware of what their obligations are at work related activities and work related activities can be very broad and often organisations get caught out because we have casual attitudes, you often have casual behaviours and when you add alcohol to that mix then you’ve got a recipe for risk.
Travis Kemp, Marsh
Travis Kemp:  I think the important thing with risk and risk in general, I mean this is no different in regards to occupational health is, information is power.  So people need to be informed, right.  But I suppose where you see a real shift with organisations is accountability to occupational health performance and that’s got to start from the top.
Stuart King:  Think about the type of venue and think about maybe doing a lunchtime event rather than an evening event, clearly articulate to people that this is a work related activity and so expected standards of behaviour are required to be seen.
Donna Sawyer:  The Christmas party may be a time for staff to let their hair down and enjoy a drink or two, but it’s also an environment where harassment can occur.  Joydeep Hor of People and Culture Strategies says it’s not enough for HR to simply go through the motions when it comes to dealing with issues around workplace harassment.
Joydeep Hor:  I think organisations are going to continue to be challenged in the bullying and harassment space over the next 4 to 5 years in particular.  I think organisation are still adopting too much of a tick the box approach in relationship to their compliance, so it might be yes they have their policies, it might be they do some online training but that’s not really engaging with their core risk areas and until such time as they are actively having conversations with their staff where they are debating these issues, getting staff to have ownership of the culture within the organisation, I think they are going to have a lot of risks and exposures that they are only scratching the surface in relation to.
Stuart King:  Regulators and legislators observe what happens in organisations and if they are not doing what’s required in terms of response to clearer interest in areas like workplace behaviours and workplace safety, then they keep regulating and wrapping up the legislative response to make organisations do it.  So for example in Victoria we have seen an amendment to the vicarious liability provisions in the Equal Opportunity Act which will have far reaching ramifications for the rest of Australia and Victoria generally takes a lead in these things such as [Brady Padlocks] case in workplace bullying.  But what the Equal Opportunity Act of Victoria now says is this is positive duty to care on organisations, it’s no longer sufficient to demonstrate that they taken reasonable precautions to prevent behaviours occurring, they actually have to look into these issues and seek out systemic issues.  They have a positive duty to care.
Donna Sawyer:  Workplace harassment is a key risk to business.  Travis Kemp of Marsh says that’s why HR needs to work closely with the company’s risk managers.  
Travis Kemp: The risk managers and HR are sometimes not having that appropriate level of communication and it’s important because your largest investment for your business is your people, right.  So in terms of risk profile, the risk understanding that’s needs to be a priority, right.  So I’d encourage organisations to certainly bring HR and risk whatever that function is in terms of risk, whether it sits within a financial function, CEO role or what, they must bring that together so the HR business is certainly aware in terms of dealing with these particular matters.
Donna Sawyer:  This is Donna Sawyer reporting for HC TV.