As most office Christmas parties are company sponsored events, employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their staff during the party – as well as making sure they have a great time. It is worth remembering that employers are responsible for the conduct of their employees at all work related events, both on-site and off-site in addition to unplanned and spontaneous events that may occur.
Christmas parties generally have a positive impact on morale and team spirit and it is an opportunity for an employer to thank employees for all of their hard work during the year. However, the boundaries need to be set by the employer to avoid any future problems.
So here is some practical advice to help you make the Christmas parties and events hazard-free.
Choose the venue carefully
Choose a place that’s safe, work-appropriate and easy to access for all your employees. If you chose a relatively public space, reserve a dedicated area that will remain within your control throughout the event.
Alcohol management and unacceptable behaviour
Remind staff, before the party, that they should only drink in moderation and make clear what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Explain in detail, including the procedures and consequences in the event of unacceptable behaviour, if necessary.
Human Resource Policies
Ensure that you have human resource policies in place that address issues that may occur at a Christmas party. These policies should at least cover issues of harassment (including sexual harassment), Occupational Health & Safety and responsible provision of alcohol.
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Transport & use of company vehicles
- Social Media usage
- Occupational Health & safety
Undertaking a risk-assessment of the event
This must identify and then put in place measures to minimise risks.
Ensure all drinking is done away from any electrical equipment. If you are short on space, move electrical gear away from the party area.
Decorating the office
Ensure proper risk assessment is carried out looking out where and how decorations are sited – particularly those that could pose potential fire hazards – you will not normally fall foul of health and safety rules. However, your insurance may not cover damage caused by untested electrical equipment so make sure you switch off tree lights before going home.
Every year, over 1000 people are injured by falling Christmas trees, so keep the office Christmas tree in a safe place where it can’t be knocked over.
Remember that employees with certain religious beliefs may be vegetarian or unable to eat certain foods. Do not leave it to chance – ask beforehand about any special dietary requirements so that these can be accommodated. Serve food that is high in protein and carbohydrates. Foods like cheeses and meats are especially good. These foods stay in the stomach longer, which slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.
Take care to label foods
Did you know that unlabelled food can potentially be dangerous? For example, if any food contains nuts then someone with a serious nut allergy could experience a fatal reaction.
Remember, you are still at work
Even though your Christmas party is held off-site, an official work function still needs to follow all if your business’ policies – such as health and safety and anti-discrimination rules. Avoid potentially offensive language, behaviour or jokes.
Secret Santa/ Mistletoe
If there is a ‘Secret Santa’ taking place, make sure that staff know the boundaries confirming that racist or adult gifts, which might offend, are not acceptable.
Make appropriate transport arrangements if alcoholic beverages are served. Shuttle bus, cab, etc.
State the Start & Finish Times – and stick to them
Make it very clear in writing before any event when the function starts and finishes.
Designate a responsible contact person at the event
Identifying and designating a responsible contact person at the event to oversee the party, keep an eye on staff behaviour and provide assistance if they have any concerns.
Have a great time at the Christmas party! Just do it safely!
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice.