Christmas Parties – nothing to worry about…right?

Human Resources

Making sure there is plenty of booze is not the only thing you need to worry about at this year's Christmas Party.

Workplace parties and events can be disastrous if not managed correctly. Even if the party is held after hours or offsite, your responsibilities as an employer still apply; to provide a safe environment for your employees.

A work function is an important way for an organisation to thank employees and celebrate the end of year or other special occasions. A successful function is not only enjoyable for everyone involved, but is also incident-free, with all guests returning home safely. 

It’s important to make sure you are protecting and promoting your company’s image and expected behavior before, during and after the event.

Work functions if not managed effectively can lead to:

  • Brand/image damage
  • High levels of risky drinking
  • Increase in the number of injuries
  • Unacceptable behaviour
  • Sexual harassment claims


Case Example

A senior manager was sacked for turning up at a work conference ‘drunk’. NSW District Court awarded the senior manager $300 000 and declared the dismissal unfair due to:

His work had paid for his drinks the night prior to the conference (it is estimated the manger consumed approximately 17 drinks)
Policy was not clear in what was considered ‘unacceptable behavior’

It is important that your employees understand what is expected of them, not only during the event but also the following day at work. This needs to be clearly articulated in your policy.


Party planning tips:

  • Promote your event as a fun, activity filled celebration where alcohol is not the focus.
  • Promote your organisation’s Code of Conduct before the event so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
  • Appoint someone to be responsible for overseeing that the festivities run smoothly and to be the point of call should any problems arise on the day.
  • Ensure your employees are being served by RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) trained bar staff.
  • Avoid table service and “top-ups” as it makes it harder for employees to keep track of how many drinks they’ve had.
  • Provide plenty of free water, soft drink and other non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Consider limiting drinks to beer and wine and avoid high alcohol content drinks.
  • Provide substantial and diverse food options making sure everyone’s dietary requirements are catered for.
  • Keep everyone busy, entertained and well organised. Kris Kringles, scavenger hunts, and staff competitions are fun ways to incorporate activities into the day that do not revolve around alcohol.
  • Provide safe transport options such as taxi vouchers and communicate safe transport options prior to the event.
  • Have a plan in place for managing intoxicated guests.
  • Consider security options. Does the venue provide security? Should you hire your own?
  • Log and document any incidents from the night.
  • Hold a debrief session after the event to assess how it all went.

Have fun!

Natasha Jager

National Manager, Workplace Services at

Comments (2)
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Definitely important things to keep in mind.

Sarah Irwin

Sarah Irwin, SME Community Director at SavvySME

I always enjoyed parties that didn't have alcohol as the focus. I loved doing scavenger hunts and particularly enjoyed events that included entire families (with jumping castles etc for the kids) because people behaved better and much less alcohol was consumed.