Em­ploy­ers need to keep lid on par­ties

South Waikato News - - OPINION / KI O¯ KU NEI WHAKAARO -

As Christ­mas ap­proaches and the year winds to a close, most peo­ple like to so­cialise, re­lax and take stock of the year, and of­ten the boss will put on a few beers for the team to say thank you. Also it is a time of year where em­ploy­ees have quite a few so­cial func­tions of their own in ad­di­tion to any work re­lated func­tions and so are of­ten keen to fin­ish milk­ing and head off with friends.

One is­sue is the em­ploy­ees who are ‘‘par­ty­ing’’ and po­ten­tially com­ing to work un­der the in­flu­ence of ei­ther al­co­hol or il­licit sub­stances or both. This cre­ates safety is­sues, work out­put is­sues, be­hav­iour is­sues – any­thing from attendance to other dis­rup­tions.

To pro­tect your­self make sure your business poli­cies, usu­ally found in your farm hand­book and your em­ploy­ment agree­ment have clauses mak­ing it a se­ri­ous mis­con­duct for an em­ployee to at­tend work in a state where they are sus­pected of be­ing unfit for work. You find clauses around this in Fed­er­ated Farm­ers agree­ments as an ex­am­ple.

If you have staff turn up and you strongly sus­pect they are ‘‘ un­der the weather’’ from some­thing, you may be tempted to just send them home.

The more for­mal ap­proach would be to re­quest that they ac­com­pany you to the doc­tors (at your cost) for a blood test, or you could have a qual­i­fied per­son come on farm to con­duct ran­dom drug and al­co­hol test­ing – as an em­ployer you are en­ti­tled to do this. Note here that safety con­cerns and pro­tect­ing em­ploy­ees and staff from ac­ci­dents en­ables em­ploy­ers to act on th­ese con­cerns. If the em­ployee re­fuses to ac­com­pany you for th­ese tests in work time and at your cost then you are able to rely on the as­sump­tion that they have some­thing to hide and may pro­ceed with for­mal ac­tion in terms of your poli­cies and em­ploy­ment agree­ments.

A sec­ond is­sue is the one of em­ploy­ees hav­ing too much al­co­hol or another sub­stance at a staff Christ­mas party and do­ing any­thing from dam­ag­ing any of the hosts fa­cil­i­ties, as­sault­ing any­one or do­ing any­thing that leads to a com­plaint of sex­ual mis­con­duct, bul­ly­ing or any other be­havioural breach.

In this sit­u­a­tion the em­ployer is li­able for the costs of dam­age as vi­car­i­ous li­a­bil­ity links dam­age on a work func­tion to the em­ployer’s wal­let. The em­ployer is also just as li­able in the re­quire­ment on them to man­age any em­ployee who be­haves in­ap­pro­pri­ately at the Christ­mas party as they are in usual work­ing hours, in law there is no dif­fer­ence so the em­ployer can­not sim­ply ig­nore any such be­hav­iour and should def­i­nitely not en­cour­age it. John Bros­nan, HR ad­viser, Coop­erAitken ac­coun­tants Mor­rinsville, Mata­mata and Thames.

John Bros­nan

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