The festive season is a chance for businesses to celebrate the year, bring some joy into the office, and blow off a bit of steam. While the office Christmas party can be the highlight of the year, there is the chance that some can have too much fun and end up with OHS issues, or those who find the holidays a difficult time can feel despondent.
Because we want to help you have a fun and safe Christmas, below we’ve outlined the risks associated with the festive season, your responsibilities as an employer, and some tips to help make sure everyone has a Christmas party to remember, for the right reasons.
Tips for a party people talk about (in a good way!)
Ensure that your staff has proper training in policy around harassment and workplace behaviour. This includes avoiding derogatory comments, or behaviour that can put staff members at risk of injury, so no singing on the tables. This extends to social media, so a clear policy about what is okay and what isn’t is advised.
Leading up to the party send an email reminding them how the rules apply in context of the upcoming event. It is best practice to designate a responsible person, who doesn’t drink, and can represent the company on the day and make any required decisions.
If you feel it’s necessary, host a meeting, introduce your responsible person and go through some scenarios, fielding any questions to make sure everyone understands the rules.
OHS at the venue
Workplace functions, even if off-premises, become a ‘workplace’ for the purpose of the Anti-discrimination and OHS legislation.
Firstly it is important to ensure you are hosting a party at a safe location, so inspect the venue prior to the event. Look out for tripping hazards and make sure fire exits, toilets, non-smoking areas and venue policies are well displayed. On arrival take attendees through this key information and reiterate the code of conduct.
Keeping a lid on it
While most people love a bit of Christmas cheer, the way you handle alcohol at the party can significantly reduce the chance of there being an incident.
Firstly it is important that the person serving alcohol has their Responsible Service of Alcohol license, and the venue has a license for alcohol consumption.
Secondly, designating specific drinking areas, and even hiring a security guard to keep your staff safe and informed can really help head off any issues. Provide ample food, and non-alcoholic beverages, alongside activities people can participate in that don’t centre on alcohol to maintain a safe party atmosphere. You can even try creative events that don’t have alcohol at all, like dance classes, ice-skating or an amazing race around the city!
Getting home safe
While it’s not a requirement to provide transport at a party, you can rest easy if you know your staff has a safe route home.
Informing attendees of their options around public transport, pre-booking taxis and facilitating things like designated drivers and carpooling can ensure that when the fun starts to wind down, everyone ends up safe in bed.
A watchful eye
Christmas can be tough on certain colleagues for a variety of reasons. If someone isn’t participating in the festivities then don’t leave them out of the conga line.
Try and strike up a dialogue with them, because sometimes just knowing that you’ve got support from your team can make a big difference. For advice on how to reach out to a colleague, visit R U OK?, an Australian initiative that fosters caring conversations, or Heads Up by beyondblue, a resource for employers who want to take action on mental health in the workplace
From Gallagher Bassett, we hope you have a very merry Christmas, with memories that make smiles, not incident reports.