How to avoid a work Christmas function disaster

Just like the rest of us, you are probably wondering ‘where has the year gone’? It’s that time of the year where workers are looking forward to a well-deserved break and to spend quality time with family/friends. No doubt, it is also that time of the year where most employers are biting their nails hoping for Christmas parties to not turn into a disaster. This article will cover some of the basic tips for employers to meet their legal and moral obligations.

Before hosting a Christmas party for workers, it is important for employers to plan and take necessary precautions. Firstly, before an employer decides on a venue, it is advisable for their Health & Safety Officer to conduct a risk assessment at the venue to ensure that there are minimal risks at the time of the event. Following this, employers should also remind their workers that the applicable policies still apply during the event, including but not limited to Code of Conduct, WH&S, Drug & Alcohol, Bullying, Harassment and Social Media (especially posting inappropriate photos from the event). If required, it is also advisable to provide a refresher training on these policies, so that workers are fully aware that misbehaviour will not be tolerated.

At the time of the event, when inappropriate behaviour is observed by a manager (including a worker becoming intoxicated), immediate steps should be taken to stop the behaviour (including sending the worker home when it’s safe to do so). Those serving alcohol should be certified to serve responsibly. In addition to alcohol, employers should provide water, soft drinks and serve food to soften the intoxication. The food should cater for everyone attending, therefore workers should be asked for their dietary requirements before the event. It is also important to label foods to avoid workers consuming food which could lead them to have an allergy.

It is important for employers to make sure that they clearly define the time and the location for their Christmas function in writing. Employers should make it clear to all its workers that they will not endorse conduct outside of the official event and that any conduct outside the specified time/place will not be their responsibility.

When it comes to gifts, we all love it; however, employers should also remind workers not to purchase gifts for one another that could be deemed inappropriate and/or offensive. If the business is organising Kris Kringle, it is advisable to set a limit on how much each employee can spend up to.

If a worker believes that they have been offended, bullied or subjected to harassment, they should immediately report the incident to their supervisor, higher management or the designated supervisor at the function. All complaints should be kept as confidential as possible, however promptly investigated and perpetrator spoken to at the event. If the designated supervisor feels that the perpetrator is intoxicated or not in a position to reasonably discuss the matter, they should be sent home and dealt with on their return to work as per company’s Grievance Procedure and other workplace policies. If a worker has been found to have breached the company Code of Conduct, they will need to be dealt with in accordance to Disciplinary and Termination procedures.   

Finally, despite the risks with these sorts of events, employers should also acknowledge the advantages, where workers get together to celebrate the past year. This is a great initiative in building team morale as a Christmas party is often a reward for the past year. Therefore, allow all workers to have a great time before they break up for the year!


This article is prepared to only provide general information about the topic. It is not intended to be used as advice in any way.

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