How to Have a Very Merry Office Christmas Party
After a hard year’s work, it can be tempting to let loose at the office Christmas party. However, it is important to remember that these parties are work functions.
Employers continue to owe employees a duty of care and occupational health and safety obligations at these events and may even be held responsible for things which happen at “kick-ons”.
Employees are not off the hook either and must be on their best (work-appropriate) behaviour at the party.
So, whether you’re an employee or an employer, here are some tips to ensure you have the merriest work Christmas do!
Tips for Employers
- Strictly RSVP only, to properly cater for the amount of people expected to attend including providing enough food.
- Invitations should remind invitees of the expected behaviour, policies and procedures of the workplace, even when “out of hours” or using social media. Additionally, inform employees that sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying will not be tolerated.
- Set the boundaries of the event. Make sure to clearly emphasise start/finish times, how to get there, whether food is provided and what to bring/wear.
- Employers have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure alcohol is served responsibly.
- If having an open bar, use external bar staff to monitor consumption and ensure responsible service of alcohol.
- If setting a tab ensure you fix an maximum amount, consider appropriate exceptions to the types of drinks available (e.g. no double shots) and apply a reasonable cut-off time.
- Employers should provide a variety of food and non-alcoholic beverage options that cater to dietary and cultural requirements. Consider using a venue that has food service or having the event catered – dips and chips is not enough.
- Appoint a dedicated manager of the party who is a senior member of staff and will not be drinking. This person can assist by managing any ad hoc issues, ensuring responsible service of alcohol is observed and ensuring guest safety (e.g. ordering taxis, locking up the office and assisting with any spills or accidents).
- Choose a central location close to public transport options and ensure the party starts and finishes at times conducive to safe-travel.
- Consider providing Ubers/taxis for attendees.
Tips for Employees
Every employee has an individual responsibility to take care of their own health and safety and the health and safety of those around them.
Know Your Limits
- Drink plenty of water and alternate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
- Set a maximum drink limit or cut-off time prior to the party and stick to it.
- Choose lower-alcohol options such as beer or wine over spirits.
- Inform a nominated supervisor of the party if you are feeling unwell or need to leave the party.
- Organise how you will be getting there and home from the party. Consider car-pooling with others, choosing a designated driver or arranging a pick-up by a trusted person.
- Make sure to inform your employer of any dietary or cultural requirements.
- Plan when you intend on leaving the party, or where you will be continuing on after the party.
Remind Yourself that you are at Work
- Although a Christmas party is an informal setting and should be enjoyed, workplace policies are still in place. Consumption of alcohol does not excuse inappropriate conduct.
- Bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment during or after the party may be valid grounds for dismissal.
- Inappropriate conduct or comments made to colleagues may land you in hot water or make things very awkward at work the following Monday. Don’t treat the work party as a big night out with friends.
What about the after party?
- In some circumstances, an employee’s behaviour outside of work hours and not at the workplace can be actionable by the employer.
- Employees wanting to kick-on after a work event should be aware that conduct causing serious damage to their employment relationship or their employer’s interests, or conduct incompatible with their duties, may constitute valid grounds for dismissal as an after-party can sometimes still be considered a work event.