So you’re finally looking forward to hosting that Christmas party for your colleagues? Getting your employees together for a work Christmas party is a great way to celebrate.
After all, it’s a great opportunity to socialise with colleagues, but there’s no fun in celebration if your colleagues aren’t safe and the party does not end in the way you expected.
Imagine being held liable for incidents and risks at your Christmas party— it’s not great for your company and neither for your employee. There’s reputational damage, monetary setbacks and more, neither of which you’d want for your company.
And that’s where we come in. In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about employer legal responsibilities to celebrate safely. We’ll walk you through your legal responsibilities and the potential risks involved.
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Possible legal risks associated at Christmas party
Christmas parties provide an exciting opportunity to socialise and build connections with your team members, but all the fun is disrupted when something goes wrong.
Just imagine, you’re having a great time with your employees, you take a sip of your cocktail, and your favourite song comes on, but somewhere amongst all the fun, something goes seriously wrong. An employee throws a punch, and another employee gets verbally abusive. What do you do then?
It is very common that a mix of alcohol and the informal setting may influence health and safety incidents. But this isn’t it… the list goes on. Other common challenges at Christmas parties include:
- Increased safety incidents (leading to higher workers’ compensation claims)
- Sexual harassment (including unwelcome touching, sexual advances, suggestive comments)
- Bullying and harassment
- Unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour
- Breaches of alcohol and drug
- Breaches of confidentiality (disclosure of sensitive information)
Many employers forget that all their legal responsibilities remain in effect during this festive period.
So, before you throw on your Christmas coloured outfit and rock the dance floor, you need to understand the various risks associated with Christmas parties and take all the necessary steps to protect yourself and your employees.
The last thing you want is for your Christmas present to be a Christmas lawsuit.
Employers responsibilities at Christmas party
As an employer, it’s on you to take care of your employees during and after a work Christmas party. But you may be wondering, what does this really mean?
Simply put, your responsibilities do not cease to exist just because you’re at a Christmas party.
Even if you organise the most magnificent Christmas party of the decade, it is still considered part of the ‘workplace’. If something goes wrong and unless you have a Christmas miracle, you will be liable for not taking the reasonable steps to prevent inappropriate or unlawful behaviour.
Ways to mitigate the risks at your Christmas party
Here are some ways to mitigate legal risks, breaches and ensure that you and your employees have a safe and joyous end to the working year:
Make sure your workplace policies are up to date
Perhaps your employees are unsure about what amounts to appropriate behaviour at the Christmas party. Don’t keep them guessing and help them out. One way to do this is to review, update and distribute your workplace policies before the Christmas party.
Make sure you address discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, and workplace health and safety standards. Many of the risks associated with Christmas parties fall into one of these categories.
Visit the venue before the Christmas party begins
Whether you choose to have your Christmas party in the office or at a fancy venue, make sure you take reasonable steps to inspect the venue for possible hazards and take care of the potential risks before the partying commences.
Have a merry Covid-safe Christmas Party
Having a covid safe Christmas party doesn’t have to take away from all the festive fun. You can still celebrate the silly season, but you must adhere to the Covid guidelines. Whether you choose to keep the Christmas festivities small or large, make sure you register everyone who attends.
Remind your staff that the Christmas party is still a work function
Your employees may tell you that it is the time to be merry, but it is also the time to be aware. Briefing your employees about appropriate behavioural expectations is a great way to avoid any issues which could potentially arise.
Enforce start and end times of parties
You should provide a defined start and end time for the Christmas party. A good tip is to make it known to your employees that the company does not support activities outside of the finish time.
Ensure responsible service of alcohol
If you plan on serving alcohol at the Christmas party, you need to make sure that it is provided reasonably and responsibly. The last thing you want is a fight to transpire because of the drunk employee. How do you minimise this from happening? Well, you can limit the number of drinks available at the Christmas party or implement a coupon system.
Make sure there is food and non-alcoholic drinks available
It is important to remember that not everyone at a Christmas party will drink. Some employees can dance the night away with their water bottle or cup of orange juice. It will be your responsibility to have non-alcoholic beverages and tasty nibbles available to slow down alcohol consumption.
Have a supervisor in place
What happens when an employee needs assistance, or an emergency arises at the Christmas party? Appointing a supervisor to stay sober and supervise the Christmas party can mitigate risks and provide employees with a point of contact should they have any concerns.
Provide safe travel options for your employees
Your duty of care does not end because the Christmas party has ended. Although employees are responsible for getting home safely themselves if they choose to drink their favourite cocktail, it is essential to organise other forms of transportation for those who require it.
If you’ve read this post till here chances are that you take Christmas parties and the safety of your employees very seriously. Well done!
To enjoy your night without a hitch, it is important to know your obligations and responsibilities, so you are prepared to mitigate the potential risks.
Take the time in advance to implement the safety measures and guide your employees, so your Christmas Party is a night to remember.
Did you enjoy what you just read? Take a look at our Employee Handbook to learn more about how to keep your employees safe.