The work Christmas party, a good time or potential liability?
The silly season is well and truly upon us! For many, this means blowing off steam at the annual work Christmas party.
While this is often the highlight of the long work year, a degree of care must be exercised when organising and hosting such a party. From a legal point of view, the Christmas party is generally accepted as an extension of the workplace itself.
To help you ensure a (safe) fun event, we’ve put together this list of top tips to keep in mind when organising your work Christmas party.
1. Where will the party be held?
This is key, given offsite locations become a ‘workplace’ for the purposes of OHS and discrimination legislation. As such, it should go without saying that the Christmas party should be held in a safe, sensible location.
If a venue has been hired, ensure it is properly equipped to hold parties. Does the venue have proper fire exits and other essential safety measures in place? Are toilets and non-smoking areas adequately signed?
While you are not expected to exercise a forensic level of scrutiny, you must exercise common sense. Asking yourself whether the location is safe enough for your family is usually a good start.
If the party is going to be held at your workplace, consider whether this location is in fact safe for such an event. Does furniture need to be moved? Are there hazards that pose a risk if people are drinking alcohol? Could something in the office be damaged?
2. Will alcohol be served at the party?
Not surprisingly, alcohol is often the issue that leaves many employers with a headache (and not just from drinking it!)
Ensure the venue is licensed and the staff are RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) trained.
If the Christmas party is going to be held at your workplace and you are supplying alcohol (or allowing employees to bring their own), store the alcohol in one central location and task somebody (who is not drinking and preferably RSA trained) to serve.
Also make sure sufficient food is available, so people are not drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
Finally, ensure there is a sufficient supply of non-alcoholic beverages available for those who do not want to drink alcohol.
3. How will people get home?
No matter the location, make sure all staff are given sufficient information on how to get home safely. Advise them of the nearest train station, bus station and taxi cab rank. Consider supplying taxi vouchers or organising a car pool to minimise any risks.
For those employees who may have had too much to drink, don’t simply say goodbye at the end of the night and leave them to get home on their own. Rather, exercise the level of care you may for a friend or family member, and do what you can to ensure they get home safely.
4. Anything further?
Yes! Given the Christmas party is an extension of the workplace, make sure all staff are briefed beforehand that the standard of conduct expected of them at the party is the same standard expected in the workplace.
Simply send out a group email or have a quick staff meeting to ensure everyone is alerted to the fact that workplace policies on behavior/discrimination/harassment will still apply at the party.
Also, set clear expectations on alcohol consumption. Let employees know prior to the party that if they are too intoxicated, they will not be served and while at the party, keep an eye on the alcohol consumption, even if you are not responsible for serving it.
Finally, when organising all aspects of the work Christmas party, be mindful not to offend anyone. Don’t choose music, entertainment or a venue that some may consider offensive.
While not a conclusive list, being mindful of these various issues and exercising care will help reduce the risk of legal issues arising from the work Christmas party.