‘Tis the Season to be jolly
As the festive season approaches, most of us are organising our Office Christmas Parties. This end-of-year festivity is a great opportunity to celebrate our journey in the last 12 months and thank the staff for their hard work. It is time to be jolly indeed!
This brings in mind the responsibilities and obligations of the managers in relation to the health and safety of all staff as well as potential harassment and discrimination issues before, during and after the Party. An important point to note is that in the eyes of the law, a Company sponsored Christmas Party, even if held off-site after office hours is still regarded as a work environment. So, all regular legal rules and regulations, duty of care and workplace policies apply while these functions are on foot.
There are plenty of case laws where employers have been found to be liable for staff members’ inappropriate statements and conduct that occurs at work-related Christmas celebrations.
You, as the business leader need to make sure that everything possible is done to protect your staff.
Practical Steps You Can Take
Well Before the Party
- Ensure that your workplace has adequate human resource policies in place that address issues such as inappropriate behavior, harassment (including sexual harassment) and health and safety
- Send out a friendly email to staff prior to the party reminding them of their responsibilities at the party, especially in relation to consumption of alcohol, behavioral standard and consciousness to safety.
- Brief all managers of their responsibilities and empower them to step in should events go out of control. Ensure that they are familiar with all appropriate workplace policies
- site party/event involving staff
Planning and Organising the Party
- Preferably hold the party away from the place of work
- Make arrangements to help employees get home after the event, such as cab fares or organising a bus, especially if it is held in the evening
- alcoholic drink options are available. If alcohol is to be consumed, all alcoholic drinks are served responsibly
- Ensure that there is a clear start and finish time of the official Christmas Party
- Ensure that there is clear communication that any festivities that continue after the Christmas party are not endorsed by the employer. Employees who take part in such festivities are on their own time and are responsible for their own health and safety.
During the Party
- Undertake a risk assessment of the function venue to identify potential health and safety hazards (such as a blocked fire exit) and ensure that attendees are aware of this
- Regularly monitor that alcohol is served responsibly
- Monitor as much as possible that no employee is engaged in any unsafe activity or being subject to harassment
After the Party
- If any complaint of inappropriate behavior or harassment is lodged by an employee, you must ensure that all steps are taken to investigate the matter and address the issue according to the workplace policy.
Let this year’s Christmas Party be one to remember for many years to come for all the right reasons.