If you live or work in Victoria, good news, Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday.
For the other ‘unlucky’ States and Territories, the celebration is simply another ordinary working day. However, the ‘race that stops the nation’ naturally halts many workplaces, where varying degrees of celebration and festivities are a common part of workplace culture.
Employment Lawyer from Employsure Law, Laura Willis says, “Melbourne Cup is traditionally a time of year when workplaces around the country let their hair down. Employers around Australia normally hold lunches or workplace drinks as a fun team building exercise. Amidst the celebrations, employers need to be mindful of risks associated with seemingly harmless workplace parties. Being aware of these risks can help employers avoid the sobering effect of liability.”
While many workplaces will pause for the race, some employers might argue that the loss in productivity is detrimental to the overall business and disruption to clients may look unprofessional. However, Willis says there are some benefits of allowing employees to take the afternoon off to celebrate the festivities.
“By allowing employees time away from work to attend events like a Melbourne Cup lunch, teams will benefit from bonding time together outside work, getting to know each other in a more casual environment. Social events can encourage staff to stay in their jobs longer.”
Willis adds, “We know that by offering additional benefits such as time off work for events, your employees will speak favourably about working at your business to others thus providing positive exposure for your business.”
On the flip side, Willis says employers might need to ‘saddle up’ for an influx of ‘sickies,’ “The most important aspect of managing employee absences on or after Cup Day is ensuring that the rules for sick days or expectations for Cup Day are understood from the outset.”
Workplaces are increasingly accepting of flexibility, so Willis advises employees to talk to their employer: “If you want the afternoon off, check with your boss what the expectations are about returning to work after the race.”