How to Plan a Safe Christmas Party

2 December 2021

The holiday period is nearing and amongst the Christmas caroling, gift buying, and decorating of trees comes the annual work Christmas party. Christmas parties are a great opportunity for employers to reward hard work and can overall have a positive impact on team culture. However, Christmas parties can often be a stressful time for employers due to risk of over-indulgence and potential workplace incidents.

As an employer, it is very important to understand ways to prevent and manage incidents that may occur this silly season. Here are a few tips for the event to ensure all goes smoothly.

Check Your Policies.

Ensure that your internal policies and procedures are up to date and in line with best practice. In particular, the Code of Conduct, Drug and Alcohol, and Bullying and Harassment policies. Another one to consider is your Social Media Policy. The combination of drinking, smartphones and Instagram may quickly turn into a messy situation for your organisation’s reputation.

Communicate

Ensuring all your staff understand the appropriate policies and their behavioural responsibilities is crucial for preventing potential incidents from occurring. If there is a general lack of understanding around your internal policies and procedures now is the perfect time to re-educate your staff. Send an email to employees or attach a note to the notice board before the event reminding all staff that while the party is a celebration it is also a work function. The email should provide links to all relevant policies and procedures and outline any repercussions of misconduct. This is also an opportunity to remind employees of the requirement to be fit for work on the following days so there is no room for ambiguity.

Serve Alcohol Responsibly

If alcohol is served at the party, make sure it is served in line with relevant legislation and is compliant with RSA. Speak to the venue management team prior to the event and reinforce that you expect RSA to be enforced. Provide bar staff with a designated contact person to speak to should they need to report intoxication at the event. Also, ensure there is a well-stocked supply of low alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages available, and that a sufficient amount of food is served with alcohol.

Ensure a Safe Environment

Arrange for your Workplace Health and Safety representative to meet with the venue manager to ensure adequate first aid facilities are available and evacuation procedures are in place.

Plan For After the Event

Where appropriate, make arrangements for your employees to get home safely after the event. Organise a bus, pre-order some taxis or arrange for some designated drivers. Workers who are injured on their way home from a work function may be entitled to workers compensation claims. It may also be a good idea to have security or senior managers / sober staff present in the car park at the end of the night to prevent any potential incidents or reckless behaviour.

Virtual Christmas Parties

Thanks to COVID-19, your office Christmas party may have a new look this year – the virtual Christmas party. Although you may not be having your end of year celebration in person, it is important to still be mindful of inappropriate party antics, sexual misconduct, and discrimination. Workplace law still applies to online Christmas parties, however, employers may also face several other issues that do not pertain to an event hosted at a venue.

Here are a few tips for the online event to ensure it is successful.

  • Ensure staff understand their responsibilities before the event such as responsible consumption of alcohol, appropriate language, behaviour, and dress attire.
  • Undertake a risk assessment considering the location of each employee, number of attendees, alcohol, and ensure non-employees are not in attendance.
  • Ensure your online party is secure, has a meeting ID and is not hosted on a public channel shared via URLs. “Zoom bombing” is a form of trolling accessible through public internet domains and leaves companies open to uninvited Christmas party guests sharing inappropriate imagery.
  • Remind employees that all their behaviour will be captured online, including any abusive, drunken or inappropriate behaviour.
  • Set a strict start and finish time for the video call, and ensure employees understand that the end of the call indicates that the party is over.

If you would like more information on this topic, or assistance with planning your safe workplace Christmas party, please contact Dean through the link below.