Party season is almost upon us. The work Christmas party is a great way for companies to reward their staff for a year of hard work, celebrate successes and generally relax, but at the same time, it can also be an HR minefield.
The combination of excessive alcohol consumption, a group of people who don’t usually socialise together, and the general festive atmosphere can leave employers with more than just a few empty cups and leftover Christmas crackers to clean up once the celebrations have ended.
If you want to avoid being left with any post-party legal or HR issues, it is a good idea to take a few upfront precautions when planning your work Christmas event this year. Just to stress, the same conduct applies as if you’re still in the office, this isn’t an excuse to relax your conduct and tell lewd jokes etc. It’s not like being at a party with mates, what happens at the office party doesn’t stay at the office party…. it absolutely will come back into the workplace.
Companies are also responsible for the safety of employees after they leave the office party. If someone left the party intoxicated, continued to go out drinking and got hit by a car on the way home, the company may be held liable as they didn’t ensure the individual got home safely.
Set boundaries for employees
It is not enough to have policies in place regarding sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour; they need to be effectively communicated to your staff before the event. If you are involving your employees in activities such as Kris Kringle, it may be worth reminding them what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of gifts to other staff members. Take care with themed events and fancy dress – make sure they are not of a nature likely to cause offence to anyone.
A friendly reminder may be more effective than a heavy lecture, and can help reassure your staff members that you aren’t going to be policing their every move but that they are still expected to adhere to a basic code of conduct.
Be responsible with alcohol
If there is alcohol at the party, ensuring that there is also plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks on offer can help to mitigate some of the effects. It may be useful to designate a few staff members – preferably at a fairly senior level – to remain sober and act as supervisors and to deal with any emergencies that might arise during the event.
Keep safety in mind
As an employer you can be considered liable for any injuries staff members receive at the office party. Make sure you arrange transportation home for employees who have been drinking, and that there are no obvious tripping or fire hazards at the venue itself.
Take care with decorations, particularly if they are flammable, and arrange furniture so there are clear walkways and no obstructions. After a few drinks most people become much more accident prone, so always err on the side of caution when it comes to safety.
With a bit of forethought and planning, hopefully your office Christmas party can go off without a hitch or any lingering HR issues! This is a great time of year to celebrate and let your staff members know how much you appreciate all their hard work over the last year and in the future. Happy partying!