Employers need to keep lid on parties
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.