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The sobering truth about hosting your annual work Christmas party

Well it’s that time of year again! The silly season is upon us. As employees merrily decorate the office with Christmas trees, decorations and blinding amounts of tinsel, as an employer you may be left feeling nervous about what shenanigans may take place at the office Christmas party.

What I am going to say next may sound a little Ba Humbug! However it’s crucial as an employer that you understand your role and responsibilities when organising a well-earned Christmas party.

As an employer you have a duty of care for all of your employees while at work. This also extends to work related functions such as Christmas parties, even if these events are after hours and offsite.

You must take steps to ensure the safety of all employees such as making sure the event is at a safe venue, excessive amounts of alcohol are not consumed, a drug and alcohol policy and harassment and discrimination policy is in place and that everyone is aware of their expected behaviour. Basically, the behavioural expectations for the employees are the same as if they were at work and they need to be aware of the consequences for any misconduct.

As an employer you may be liable for the inappropriate behaviour including bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination of employees at work Christmas parties. This also includes workers compensation claims for any employees who are injured on their way home from the Christmas party. It’s extremely important to make sure that employees have access to safe transportation after the event.

Follow these steps and you will guarantee your office Christmas party will go smoothly. You don’t want to be having any awkward conversations Monday morning about how John vomited all over the Director after verbally abusing him or how Mary decided to show everyone her pole dancing skills while using Tom as the pole. Trust me it happens all too often!

  1. Ensure all your work place policies (esp. drug and alcohol) are up to date and remind staff to refresh themselves on these policies before the big event. Without trying to sound too much like a Scrooge remind employees of the potential consequences if they are in breach of any of these policies. It’s also advisable to make sure these policies are supported and reinforced throughout the company including senior management.
  2. Have a clear start and finish time for the function. Make sure employees have appropriate transportation when leaving the event such as public transport or cab vouchers.
  3. Make certain an ample amount of food is supplied. You don’t want staff having glasses of Christmas spirit on an empty stomach.
  4. Monitor the service and consumption of alcohol and ensure low and non-alcoholic beverages are also available.
  5. Make sure the venue does not have any health and safety hazards and employees are aware of fire exits.

If you need assistance with creating practical and useful policies for your workplace one of our highly experienced Gurus can help. Give us a call on 1300 959 560.

Written by Resident HR Guru Natalie Bol

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