How to Avoid Christmas Party Incidents!

We know that the festive period can sometimes be referred to as ‘the silly season,’ however, key measures can be put in place to avoid Christmas party incidents at the end of year function!

Christmas Party Incidents

Christmas is fast approaching which means our calendars are starting to fill up with festive events, including those social work gatherings with our fellow colleagues, clients and customers.

Often one of the biggest events in our social calendars is the end of year Christmas celebration which generates a lot of hype and excitement within the team. It is a great way to celebrate achievements, reflect upon successes throughout the year and reward your team for their efforts.

However, as these celebrations are usually held in a relaxed environment with alcoholic beverages served, there is a higher potential of clouded judgement and therefore Christmas party incidents.  It is in these situations that unfortunate incidents, such as harassment or workplace accidents/injury have a higher risk of occurring.

Christmas party incidents can be highly damaging and costly to a business, so it is critical that you understand your duty of care to your employees and take steps to minimise the risks.

When it comes to your duty of care, you may be surprised to know that during work related events, the obligation:

  • extends beyond the office or place of usual business;
  • extends to hours outside of normal work hours; and
  • may also include the trip home at the end of the function.

So, with such a high degree of responsibility, it is important that you understand how you can reduce your risk of any party faux pas!

To assist you with holding a ‘drama-free event,’ we have broken down the function into 4 key stages and provided some useful tips.

Before the function:

In the preparation and planning phase of your Christmas party, you should assess the hazards and risks of the proposed event. An assessment should consider things like location, travel required, venue capacity and accessibility, and the likelihood of an incident or injury taking place. By conducting a risk assessment, you can determine what control measures need to be applied to reduce or eliminate any risk.

Pre-event, we also recommend that your employees are reminded of company policies which specifically highlight expected standards of behaviour. Policies which typically include this information may be a;

  • Code of Conduct
  • Bullying and Harassment Policy
  • EEO Policy
  • Drug and Alcohol Policy
  • Work Health and Safety Policy

It is important to take proactive steps to reduce or prevent risk by communicating to the team and clearly expressing your expectations for the event.

  • Let them know that work-related rules and policies still apply even if the function is off-site or outside of normal work hours.
  • Be clear in advising them that unacceptable conduct or misbehaviour in breach of Company policy could result in disciplinary action, as could their failure to turn up for work the next day because of over-indulging.
  • Remind them of their duty to consume alcohol responsibly and to leave the event premises at the conclusion of the event (particularly if held at work) as there are strict start and finish times.
  • If you usually exchange gifts, then it is also a good idea to advise your employees that gifts should not be offensive or sexual in nature.
  • Facilitate appropriate training prior to the event for both managers and employees in relation to the standard of conduct required at work-related functions. In this training it is also a good idea to cover your complaint process to ensure that all employees are aware of what to do if the situation arises. If you don’t have a complaint process in place, then now is the perfect time to introduce one!
  • Provide further training, specifically for managers, on how to recognise, manage and respond to risk appropriately.

At the function: 

Minimise risk at the function by following these simple steps:

  • Serve alcohol responsibly, with plenty of food. Ensure you are also providing low alcohol and non-alcoholic options.
  • Ensure employees under 18 do not drink alcohol.
  • Ensure bar or waiting staff are briefed on limiting alcohol supply to people who are becoming intoxicated and they continue to exercise appropriate RSA.
  • Ensure all management lead by example.
  • Appoint a manager to monitor and supervise the party.
  • Appoint a manager for whom employees can confer with if an issue arises.

After the function: 

Pre-emptive steps to prevent harassment or injury are crucial, as your liability may extend to events which take place after the official work function ends.

  • Plan travel arrangements home from the function
    • plan to end the party before public transport stops running; or
    • provide employees with the phone numbers for local taxi companies; or
    • provide cab charge vouchers and encourage employees to use them.

The morning after: 

The party may now be over; however, it is important to diligently follow up on any incidents that have occurred.

  • Take immediate, appropriate action to address any complaints. If a claim is made, seek advice to minimise the financial cost and the risk to your business and its reputation that could result from litigation.
  • If an employee has had too much to drink or not enough sleep and needs to drive or operate machinery the next day, give them either time-off or alternative work until they are fit to resume normal tasks.

Work Health and Safety and harassment laws don’t mean that you and your employees can’t have a good time and celebrate, however by following these sensible steps you can proactively reduce the risk of something going wrong.

If you require assistance with managing your risk over the festive season, drafting policies and procedures, or any other HR matter, please contact us or call us on 1300 675 393 and one of our experienced HR Consultants will provide you with assistance.

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