Avoiding the Grinch this Christmas


The annual work Christmas party is a much-anticipated event; a chance to celebrate the year’s achievements with colleagues and forget about work for a night. 

However, employers must be wary of the legal risks associated with holding an employer-sponsored event. Employers have a duty of care and must meet OH&S standards to ensure the end-of-year celebration does not go awry. 

Save HR from a headache with these tips: 

Outline expectations in advance 

Send a memo to all employees before the event reminding them of what is considered appropriate and inappropriate conduct. Setting the standard prior to the party helps to prevent misconduct and ensures employees are aware of the repercussions if they do not behave appropriately. 

Remember ‘responsible service of alcohol’ 

As most Christmas parties will involve some degree of alcohol, employers must take reasonable steps to ensure alcohol is provided responsibly, i.e., providing food, low alcohol and non-alcoholic drink options, and having trained staff to serve alcohol. 

Provide transport 

Employers can be held liable for an employee’s safety and actions when travelling to and from the Christmas party. Organising travel arrangements such as a mini bus or pre-booking taxis ahead of time will help to eliminate potential safety risks such as drink driving or a fight on the way home. 

Allocate a supervisor 

Allocating one responsible person or group of managers to monitor behaviour and deal with any issues that may arise is important as employers can be held liable for the actions of their staff including sexual harassment, discrimination, and bullying. 

Create clear start and end times 

Be sure to define the start and end time of the event and stay clear of endorsing any ‘after-parties’ held once the official Christmas party is finished. Employers can easily find themselves in a legal nightmare if they fail to do so. 

Cristy Houghton