A Manager’s guide to safe office Christmas parties

November 12, 2018

Looking for information on how to run a safe office Christmas party, we came across this post from Australian employee manual.

We’re only reproducing the actual tips here. But there’s a lot of lead-in content that’s really quite funny – and oh too true. Definitely worth a read https://www.employeemanual.com.au/safe-office-christmas-parties

“For years I was the HR Manager at many Christmas functions and I can tell you – I hated Christmas parties!

I counted a party a success if there were no sexual harassment allegations popping up over the next week, if no junior embarrassed herself (it was always a girl) by doing a Brittany Spears and her many wardrobe malfunctions, if no girlfriend or boyfriend of an employee threw up or hit another staff member, if no one uploaded a video taken on their phone of the drunken antics and uploaded it to You Tube and if everyone got home safely without any car accidents or brawls on the way home.”

(So…) here are my Top 10 ‘In the Trenches” Tips to Hosting a Safe Office Christmas Party.

 Intent – be clear on why you are having a party

Is it to have staff relax and get to know each other better, to celebrate a great year, to commiserate a bad year, to get families involved in work? Whatever your intent – be clear and tell people what you are doing. This means not inviting families and partners if you want to team build but inviting them if you want to remind people of the importance of work/life balance.

Repeat after me: Parties are not a motivational tool

A Christmas party (no matter how expensive) is not a motivational tool for staff. They will not work hard all year for little praise and average wages in the hope you throw a great party once a year!

Parties are work functions

There’s a lot of case law about this so you need to be on your guard. If someone attends a work Christmas party they are generally considered to be “at work” which means managers are liable both directly and vicariously for accidents, injuries, harassment, vilification, and all of the other nasties when people are at your party. Put in risk mitigation measures from the beginning to minimise your risk.

Alcohol: In one word NO!

Alcohol is the cause of most bad behaviour and critical incidents, so aim for a dry party if at all possible. If you decide to supply alcohol, you must also supply taxi vouchers to ensure people get home from the party safely.

You also need to ensure you have at least two managerial level staff (one male and one female) to be the “fun police”, keep an eye on people drinking, and not drink themselves. The fun police’s role is to keep an eye on drinking, protect people from themselves, to go into the toilets and help people who are ill to get themselves safely sorted out, and then go home.

They need to be on hand at the taxi rank to see people safely into cabs and they also need to keep an eye out for DVD cameras and video phones recording inappropriate behaviour to later post on YouTube.

Have someone sober monitor the bar tab

Unless you have very deep pockets, if you are running a bar tab keep an eye on the spend during the night. I know of some functions that started with a bar tab of $3000, but at the end of the night it ended up costing over $20,000 thanks to one of the managers drinking a bit too much of the good stuff.

Wages

If the party is during regular work hours then I would suggest attendance is paid (unless all employees are under absolutely no obligation or even subtle pressure to attend and they can remain at their desks if they choose instead of attending). If the party is out of hours then the party is unpaid.

Mandatory attendance

Don’t do it! All attendance should be totally optional and no pressure, bullying, or general standover tactics employed to make people attend. If many people choose not to attend your party, that is highlighting a problem in your workplace culture and hidden morale issues.

Secret Santa presents

They are fine to do but set limits on both money and the types of gifts bought. A $10 limit is fine – make sure the rules on gifts include there are no pornographic, R rated, insulting or abusive gifts bought (remember your vicarious liability …).

Venues

Do consider if the venue is appropriate for all members of your staff. This not only includes people with disabilities but also people of different religions and ages. Make sure the menu caters for Vegans as well as kosher if needed.

Codes of Conduct

Remind all staff about your Codes of Conduct both on the lead up to the party as well as at the beginning of the function. Yes, it puts the damper on things, but it will save you a lot of money if you do get taken to court and you can demonstrate all reasonable steps were taken to prevent a problem.

If you follow these tips your after-party hangover should only be related to too much red wine and not in cases before various courts and jurisdictions.

Source: https://www.employeemanual.com.au/safe-office-christmas-parties

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