How to avoid the “silly” season HR disasters at the annual Christmas party

How to avoid the “silly” season HR disasters at the annual Christmas party

It’s called the silly season for a reason, and as employers, many of us know all too well just how “silly” the annual Christmas party can get.  

Mixing alcohol, and an informal atmosphere tends to increase the risk of employees being injured or behaving inappropriately 

Although HR is often seen as the party poopers, they have some valid reasons for making sure things don’t get too out of hand.  

So, what’s the big deal if the annual Christmas party and a few “spirited” staff members get a bit “silly” 

Akyra’s HR Consultant Roberta Kempe explains that, as employers, there is an obligation to provide a safe workplace to their employees, in and out of the usual workplaceThis means the obligation is also extended to social events such as the annual Christmas party (or a client function, but that’s a story for another time). 

To add fuel to the flameyou may also be liable for an employee’s misbehaviour and face claims against the business. The most common claims reported following the annual Christmas party are sexual harassment, bullying or failing to provide a safe workplace 

If a complaint does arise, failure to properly deal with the misbehaving employees may also result in unfair dismissal or discrimination claims against the business 

Maybe HR isn’t trying to poop on the party after all… just trying to avoid a lawsuit minefield?!  

Luckily for employers, Roberta has shared some tips and tricks that will help you plan a fun Christmas Party (whilst also avoiding a lawsuit).  

ROBERTA’S TOP TIPS:  

  • Remind the team that the annual Christmas party is still a work function Yes, the aim of the party is to celebrate the working year with colleagues, however, it’s still a work function and your employees need to be reminded of their continued duty and responsibilities. 
  • Be prepared. Preparation is key, so make sure you have your strategies in place before the event, including all appropriate policies and procedures, are up to date (most notably code of conduct, WHS, sexual harassmentdiscrimination, and bullying). This is the perfect time to remind employees of their obligations under these policies with some strategically timed “refreshers” held in the lead up to the party 
  • Ensure you have adequate food. This one is particularly important if alcohol will be consumed at the party and the function is serving finger food and canapes. Ensure that there is enough food to adequately feed everyone – in this case, it’s better to have too much foodrather than hungry (and intoxicated) employees.   
  • Safe travel to and from the event. The trouble doesn’t always have to be at the event but can occur as employees are travelling to and from the Christmas party. To make sure they do so safely, you should clearly inform your staff when the party will start and end and provide them with options for transportation (many companies include the cost of Uber or taxis into their budget). 
  • Responsible service of alcohol. This is a bit easier to manage if you’re on licensed premises, however regardless of your location (even if it’s a backyard BBQ)it’s your responsibility to ensure that responsible service of alcohol is occurringWe suggest avoiding an open bar as this often enables binge drinking (and only equals trouble). Instead, consider drink tokens or a small bar tab to encourage responsible alcohol consumption. It’s important that you have strategies in place to deal with employees if they overindulge. 
  • Nominate a sober party supervisorAlthough there might not be too many people putting up their hands for this role, it’s essential to nominate a member of the team (we strongly suggest management or someone with a level of authority), that will remain sober for the duration of the event. This nominated person should be responsible for supervising and dealing with any issues which may arise  

Despite having followed all the above tips, if a complaint does arise about an employee’s behaviour at the Christmas party, you will need to make sure the complaint is dealt with properly and investigated appropriately 

CHAT TO ROBERTA 

With the silly season fast approaching, if you need assistance adequately preparing your workforce for this year’s Christmas party or, are dealing with an issue that has arisen, please contact Akyra’s HR Consultant, Roberta Kempe on 0436 001 598 or hrconsultant@akyra.com.au for an obligation-free chat.  

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