It is worth considering a Christmas activity for your staff, rather than simply standing around a BBQ having a few drinks. A prudent employer might treat the employees and their families to a new release movie night at the cinema. A go-kart outing (be careful about the workers compensation implications of accidents) or event in a local park might provide a more family-friendly environment – which is less likely to lead to excessive alcohol consumption and the associated problems.

Some tips for employers include:

  • Inform employees that existing harassment, bullying and occupational health and safety policies still apply. These are for the protection of all employees in the course of their employment – and the party to celebrate their hard work is no exception. Despite the fact that it’s a party – it’s still a work function.
  • Inform managers that they are under an obligation to uphold policies and at least one manager should have the responsibility of sober supervision – they may need to intervene in the event of an incident.
  • Make sure the policies are not just on paper, but clearly understood by all employees, and backed up by sufficient training.
  • Act promptly when someone does make a complaint. Have in place a process for an impartial and confidential investigation – and use it.
  • If you have organised performances or skits make sure you are not unpleasantly surprised by what is in them. Arrange for a manager to check their content before the party and don’t allow jokes or skits that target particular employees.
  • Provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and make sure people have enough to eat. Consider shifting the focus from alcohol by providing some form of entertainment.
  • Make sure you can stop drinks service at a certain time if necessary.
  • Set a reasonable and definite time closing of the event. Make it very clear that any “˜after-party’ is not a work-sanctioned event and do not pay for it; discourage managers from attending.
  • Provide staff with options for safe and convenient ways to get home.

There is no particular requirement for you to provide staff with transport home, but should someone have an accident on their way home from a Christmas party, and it can be proven that the Christmas party contributed to the accident (it has happened), then you may have a problem.

The wise and prudent employer watches alcohol consumption (consider drinks service by someone with a Responsible Service of Alcohol qualification) and ensures safe transport home for those unfit to drive.

Some additional Christmas party tips for employees:

  • Keep in mind that the offence is in the eye of the beholder – you may not be offended by some behaviour but someone with a different age, sex, race, or other characteristics or background, might be.
  • If you’re involved in a skit it’s useful to remember that rude or crude is not usually clever, or funny, particularly when it relates to a particular person, group or department. Apply a strict “˜family values’ standard – if your grandmother wouldn’t laugh it is not appropriate material.
  • Make sure you eat enough and drink some non-alcoholic beverages. It’s often good to drink a glass of water per glass of alcohol.

Make sure you send in your Christmas party snaps to {encode=”” title=””} to feature in our ‘Christmas party wrap up’ this January!