Christmas Party Police

Christmas – the time for giving!  With a constant stream of functions and events spread throughout December in productivity terms you may feel you’re giving more than you wish!  On a more serious note, it’s a great time to reflect on the challenges and achievements of the year just gone and to say thank you to staff for their contribution and ongoing commitment to the success of your business. Today’s Karen Gately blog looks at the silly season, and how to avoid making your annual workplace Christmas party a schmozzle.

As an employer there are legal obligations encompassing any work sanctioned event that must be addressed – and that includes the Christmas party. It is widely known and accepted that the Christmas function is considered to be ‘in the course of employment’. This means that as an employer you have a duty of care to your employees, an obligation that can extend beyond just the function itself.

Unfortunately alcohol and workplace relations don’t always mix well.  For employers and employees alike, a couple of drinks too many, an inappropriate comment or an over-friendly gesture may result in a headache lasting much longer than 24 hours. But let’s face reality, a few drinks in celebration are part of our culture and I can’t imagine there are too many businesses celebrating at a dry Christmas function.

When we talk of liability for things that don’t go well, understand that these liabilities remain constant as do your everyday obligations relating to workplace bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, and workers compensation. Therefore our advice is to plan carefully, consider the key points below and trust that the strength of your workplace culture dictates a safe, enjoyable and rewarding celebration.

  1. Venue – consider the location and how people will get to and from the venue – accessibility to public transport will be important. Many businesses also provide cab charges or other transport options to ensure staff arrive and leave safely.
  2. Timing – consider the time, day of the week and understand the potential impact on service delivery and personal obligations. Remember that not everyone will willingly commit their time over the weekend to a work function.
  3. Acknowledgements – if you intend to make formal acknowledgements or speeches these will be best received earlier in the night.
  4. Responsibilities – prior to the event remind staff of the relevant company policies and specifically their individual and collective responsibilities. Be clear that the Christmas function is an extension of the office so any form of harassment, bullying or discrimination will not be tolerated and may impact detrimentally on their employment.
  5. Leadership – assign the leadership team with the responsibility of monitoring staff behaviour.
  6. EEO – be aware that not everyone celebrates Christmas and referring to the ‘festive season’ may be a more suitable alternative.
  7. Alcohol – if you are not at a licensed venue ensure that alcohol is being served responsibly.
  8. Activities & Gifts – If a Secret Santa or Kris Kringle approach to giving is adopted set guidelines around the appropriateness of gifts.
  9. Awards – Genuine recognition will be well received but tread carefully around ‘awards’ or ‘roasts’ that may cause offense.
  10. Incidents – if an incident does occur or misconduct is reported, it is important that you follow your usual incident management process and that a swift, thorough and professional approach is adopted to the investigation and resolution.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Party Police

  1. A good checklist of sorts for office party organisers, Karen!

    Something I’d add is to check the dietry requirements to ensure that all staff are catered to. It might sound silly but there’s nothing worse than seeing staff go without food/drink because of their allergies or religion. The religious diversity of the workforce also needs to be considered with sensitivity…

  2. Repeat after me… water, champagne, water, champagne, water, champagne, water, champagne, water, water, water. All you need to practice from an employees perspective (and employers should set this good example).

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