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Avoid a liability hangover from the office Christmas party

Employers should ensure staff have fun at the office Christmas party, but not at the expense of the business’ liability insurance. So here’s some tips for encouraging appropriate behaviour this festive season.

According to the El Group, as the festive season approaches employers need to remind staff that the work Christmas party is still a work function and inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment and discrimination, is unlawful and unacceptable.

When organising staff Christmas parties, whether on or off-site and whether within work hours or out of work hours, employers have a legal responsibility to protect employees against sexual harassment and discrimination.

To do this, they should implement clear policies to deal with conduct within the workplace and at staff functions after work hours.

With this in mind, El Group CEO Ben Thompson has put together a list of six tips for throwing a successful Christmas party.

1. The night should be premised as a celebration of team efforts for the year.

Before your Christmas party, make sure all your staff are informed of the appropriate standard of behaviour expected of them.

It’s worthwhile reiterating your discrimination and harassment policy to all staff in the weeks leading up to your Christmas party and making it an item at all staff meetings.

“Most workplaces are going to want to celebrate the year with a few drinks. While this is certainly pleasant, managers should be responsible and remove anyone from the event that is too inebriated or acting inappropriately,” Thompson said, suggesting a lunchtime party or one involving kids and partners could limit the likelihood of excessive drinking.

2. Ensure there are good transport options to get everyone home safely.

If you’ve removed anyone from the party for being too drunk, make sure you call them a cab and make sure they get into it and are capable of giving their address to the driver.

3. Ensure managers are acting responsibly.

While it’s a celebration for your managers as much as it is for the rest of your team, it’s worthwhile reminding your managers to act in a professional capacity during the evening and help to supervise the event.

Managers and supervisors also need to be trained so that they know their obligations and responsibilities and can prepare themselves to deal with any issues that may arise.

4. Place emphasis on the responsible intake of alcohol.

Ensure the evening is fun and inclusive by considering things like appropriate catering and entertainment, that emphasises fun and celebration, not drunk and disorderly.

5. Consider the dietary requirements of everyone.

You should ensure your catering is appropriate for a multicultural team and making available vegetarian, vegan and celiac options.

6. Get to know what constitutes harassment

According to Thompson, too many small business owners aren’t educated in what constitutes sexual harassment – “whether physical, verbal, written or visually offensive”

Harrassment includes if someone performs the following activities:

  • Subjects someone to unwanted physical contact or gestures;
  • Asks intrusive questions, or subjects someone to insinuations about their private life;
  • Makes jokes or insinuations of a sexual nature;
  • Subjects someone to sex-based insults or taunts;
  • Inappropriately or repeatedly asks someone to go out with him or her;
  • Explicitly or implicitly demands to engage in sexual activity with someone;
  • Sends offensive communication of a sexual nature by means of a note, letter, telephone, computer, or by electronic mail or any other means; and,
  • if a person feels offended, humiliated or uncomfortable as a result, sexual harassment has occurred.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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