Yes the silly season is almost upon us and while Christmas parties provide you with an opportunity to celebrate the year’s achievements with your staff, it’s also not called the silly season without a reason. It’s funny how a few glasses of ‘Dutch Courage’ can remove inhibitions, but also a timely reminder why there is a steady increase in employment related claims which could leave you as the employer in hot water with some costly legal fees, not to mention some very upset staff.
We have partnered with the good folk at Workplace Assured (a joint venture vehicle owned by NSW Business Chamber and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) to compile some do’s and don’ts when planning your Christmas party (or any staff function for that matter) so as to keep you out of hot water and ensure your event is one to remember, for the right reasons.
- Think about the diversity of your workforce before planning begins. You need to consider if any arrangements might cause disadvantage or discriminate against certain religious groups (venue/ theme/ date etc).
- Ensure you have both a code of conduct policy and a drug and alcohol policy in place prior to any functions and remind staff of these policies prior to the function itself. We also recommend that you provide examples of unacceptable behaviour.
- Specify clear starting and finishing times for your function and remind employees that anything that they do outside of these timeframes (particularly those that choose to “kick on”) will not be your responsibility.
- Make sure you plan to include non-alcoholic beverages along with any alcoholic ones and also ensure you factor in differing food requirements/ allergies (vegetarian, gluten free etc).
- Ensure the responsible service of alcohol and where these are provided; specify appropriate travel arrangements available to employees.
- Have sufficient monitoring, supervision and security at the function as required.
- Take appropriate and timely action if issues arise.
- Don’t leave your planning to the last minute.
- Don’t exclude any employees from the invitation list.
- Don’t host your function in a public place where you cannot supervise your staff or any of the unwanted guests that might try to sneak in on the action and your good will.
- Don’t assume what you did last year and the year before will be accepted again this year as ‘funny’ or just a ‘joke’.
- Don’t forget that your staff functions are classed as ‘work’ so you as the employer are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of your staff at all times.
- Don’t invite everyone back to your place after the venue closes the doors.
- Don’t sit on the photocopier.
Without wanting to sound like Scrooge, for any work function you host, we would strongly recommend specifying responsible alcohol consumption, no use of illegal drugs, no harassment, no fighting/violence, and no inappropriate language. As above, you could state that any breaches of those rules may result in disciplinary action as per your relevant policy. It is therefore extremely important that you have these and that they are up to date with current legislation.
Failure to have such policies in place, could mean that you as the employer and organiser of the function would be liable for any issues that may eventuate. Workplace issues are on the rise with over 27,000 claims recorded in the Fair Work Commission in the last reported year.
All sounding too hard? It doesn’t have to be.
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