With the festive season coming up quickly, employers, managers and HR managers alike are starting to plan their staff Christmas parties. While it is a great opportunity to let loose and take a break from work, Christmas functions also come with a range of different risks. So along with planning everything from catering to venue, it’s also important that you consider these tips for organising a Christmas party.
Before the Party
Planning is the essential step to minimising risk. With the addition of alcohol and a general feeling of release, employees are likely to take things too far. If you are aware of the specific risks that you face, you will be able to find strategies to cope with and prevent anything that might go wrong.
Understand the Risks
Being outside of the usual work environment will put employees at ease. While it is good and rewarding for them to feel relieved of stress, this also means that they are less wary of their behaviour and more prone to misconduct.
As an employer or manager, you must maintain the usual occupational health and safety requirements, as well as making an effort to prevent any form of harassment or discrimination.
Understand your Liability
Whether the party occurs inside or outside of the office, you have the responsibility to maintain a duty of care over your employees. The law requires you to comply with OH&S obligations and ensure that employees are taken care of.
This liability can also occur vicariously. You can be liable for the misconduct of your employees. For example, the giving of inappropriate gifts at Kris Kringle, or any other activity that is likely to offend.
Take Practical Steps
To make sure that you and your employees are protected at your staff Christmas party, it is crucial that you take these important steps in preparation:
- Clearly outline your plans for the Christmas party. Let your employees know all the details of the event, including the venue, transport arrangements as well as specific finishing times.
- Create and update your workplace policies. For Christmas parties in particular, these policies should include codes of conduct relating to work functions and the responsible consumption of alcohol). You should also make sure that each of your employees is aware of these codes by sending an email or holding a meeting.
- Ensure that the aforementioned policies inform your employees of how they should approach internal complaints and how the complaints will be investigated.
- Perform a risk assessment of the function venue so that you can identify any potential health and safety hazards. You should then inform your employees of important information about the venue, including where the fire exits are located.
- Promote a positive workplace culture amongst your employees. This will not only make the party more fun and interactive, but it will create a sense of comradery, lessening the chance of ill feelings and misconduct. The implementation of this strategy is also useful for building morale throughout the year.
During the Party
While the Christmas party should also be a good opportunity for you to take a break and relax with your co-workers, it’s important that you don’t get too comfortable.
Pay attention and minimise risks
Particularly in an environment where alcohol is readily available, it is imperative that you keep an eye on how much is being consumed. This begins with ensuring that the service of alcohol is a responsible amount, and that there is a good supply of non-alcoholic alternatives.
Using information that you noted during your risk assessment of the venue, you should ensure that you also monitor these potential hazards during the party.
After the Party
With the aid of social media as well as your plain, old-fashioned rumour mill, post-party rumours are likely to occur. At this point, it is crucial that you know how you should approach any animosity or bullying that may occur in the workplace.
It is important to note that as an employer or manager, you are not allowed to interfere with the private lives of your employees, unless their behaviour affects the work environment. If this is the case, you need to implement your disciplinary policies. This is an especially vital process when it comes to complaints. Any complaints that are filed need to be dealt with promptly and properly.
Threats of any form of violence should not be tolerated, and need to be addressed immediately. Even if neither party presses charges, you again need to have disciplinary policies in place and be able to enforce them promptly.
You should also make an effort to keep an eye on the behaviour of your employees as a whole, to ensure that misconduct isn’t being overlooked.
Christmas parties are a great way to reward your employees after a good year’s work. Although we’d all like to let loose, it’s important to realise that even if you’re in a casual setting, you still have a responsibility to look after your employees. In the end, if they have a good time, you’ll also find it a rewarding experience. So take these steps to ensure that you can all have a spectacular time.
Featured photo by Niki Odolphie, 2012. via Flickr.