Chances are your business is organising an event for the upcoming festivities. As an employer, your duty of care remains the same even at work Christmas parties.
Legally, it’s still ‘work’ and even if the party venue isn’t your premises, it’s considered a ‘workplace’. This may even be the case if you, as the employer, haven’t sanctioned the event.
This BT Lawyers’ article lists court cases arising from issues at Christmas work parties gone wrong.
Check and communicate your policies
Be sure your Christmas party internal policies and procedures are updated and meet best practice as a minimum part of your pre-event risk assessment.
Policies to flag via email, on noticeboards and team meetings with would-be work Christmas party go-ers include:
- Code of conduct and confidentiality rules
- Workplace harassment and discrimination
- Bullying, psychological injury
- Use of alcohol and drugs
- Use of social media
- Workplace health and safety.
Highlight the key issues that may arise at the event. Impress upon them the need for moderation whether they’re working the next day for you or not.
Serve staff responsibly
Responsible serving of alcohol (RSA) laws vary between each state and territory. Generally, it covers those who sell, serve, supply or deliver alcohol to customers.
In NSW, for example, serving an intoxicated person could see a business or the server fined up to $11,000 and issued with an on-the-spot penalty. Even an employee risks a $1,100 fine for giving a drink to an intoxicated peer. Abide by restrictions on serving minors alcohol, too.
Avoid these risks by discussing strategies with the venue management/event organisers for your work Christmas party. Let them know intoxicated people shouldn’t be served alcohol. Ensure ample food and non-alcoholic beverages. You could also limit the number of drinks through a voucher system.
As well as complying with laws, there are spinoff benefits when your company serves alcohol to staff and sundry responsibly. These include:
- Maintaining a good brand reputation
- Higher level of customer satisfaction – if they’re on your party invite list
- Less damage done to your business premises
- Fewer potential legal issues
- Boosted morale, which may help with productivity and staff retention.
Offer a safe environment
Involve your workplace health and safety representative in planning and risk assessment for your work party. They’ll help make sure evacuation procedures and first aid kits are in place. Also, set and stick to a maximum number of attendees and the event’s start and finish times.
If your business is using another venue for the Christmas party, check they have public liability insurance. And if dancing or party games are on the agenda, assess the risks before the fun starts.
You may also need to designate a supervisor to oversee the event to monitor issues.
Plan for the end of the evening
Your business should look at offering staff options for getting home safely, such as:
- Pre-ordered taxis/Uber rides
- A mini or other bus
- Designated drivers.
Consider how to support your staff to find transport home. Depending on the state or territory in which you live, your business could be liable if staff injure themselves leaving your work function.
Be prepared to handle issues & complaints
Make sure your system for reporting incidents, accidents and near misses is followed year-round as well as during your work Christmas party. Should any issues or complaints be raised, respond promptly and carry out a fair and confidential investigation.
Starting on these measures above well before your party starts helps minimise the risks and liabilities to your business. If you’d like more risk management guidance, be sure to call us to discuss.