The Do's & Don't of the "Silly" Season

The home stretch to the year’s end is upon us and most businesses are thinking about what to do for their Christmas/end-of-year shindig. To help you with these preparations, the following is a list of “Do” and “Don’ts” to help you get through the festive season with a safe, productive and litigation-free close to the year...


Do – plan an end-of-year party. It’s nice to reward your employees’ efforts for the year, and give them the opportunity to socialise at an out-of-work environment. Studies have shown us for decades that happy employees are more productive, and that employers that actively recognise and appreciate their employees have lower staff turnover, lower absentee rates and better morale. This doesn’t mean you need to shower employees with expensive champagne at a white-tie function at the city’s most expensive restaurant – a simple lunch can be enough to say “Thanks for a great year of work”.

Don’t – have an open bar with non-stop booze for the duration of the night, and encourage your employees to drink the night away. Most of the trouble that arises out of workplace Christmas parties arises from excessive alcohol consumption. If you aren’t aware that your liability as an employer extends to work functions, then heed the following words carefully: Your liability as an employer extends to work functions. This means your legal obligations to protect an employee’s health, safety and welfare and to provide a workplace free from harassment and discrimination exist beyond work hours, and outside work premises. Make sure sufficient food is provided, and keep Responsible Service of Alcohol laws in mind, particularly given our recent description in the media as a “Nation of Binge Drinkers”. Sexual harassment is a common Christmas party complaint. Remember, the general population is emboldened by alcohol, and what one person thinks may be their subtle compliment to a co-worker may in fact be a  boozed up, over the top move that could make the recipient uncomfortable at the least, and may lead to a harassment complaint the next day. Employees should be reminded that all company policies, including your Anti-Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Policy applies to its full effect at the Christmas party.

Don’t – have your party on a boat. People can get drunk and fall off boats during work Christmas parties. It’s happened before. Location choice can be a big factor in ensuring a safe and happy party – a function room with loud music and dark corners may lead to red faces the next morning – or complaints (see above). Paintball, white-water rafting and abseiling might be good team-building adventures, but not everyone wants to be littered with bruises when they visit their Gran on Christmas day. It’s not a bad idea to stick to something simple, like a lunch or dinner – that way, people will be eating while drinking, and are less likely to get… well, carried away.

Do – remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Culturally diverse workplaces might want to recognise there are a number of religious and secular events around that time of year and may wish to aim for a non-denominational/secular title, such as “Festive Season Celebration”.

Do – set the standard. No-one wants to see their boss being sick into a pot-plant. Someone has to be the responsible one, and keep an eye on things, and if it means sticking to the soft drink all night to ensure everyone else has a safe night, well then that may not be a bad idea. A nerdy sober boss is always better than a messy drunk boss, so know your limits and don’t test them around your staff.

Don’t – forget to plan how employees are getting home before they start drinking. The safest option can be to provide employees with CabCharges or a shuttle bus to get everyone home, and prevent people from making a decision to drive home after they’ve had one too many. And while you technically can’t stop employees “kicking on” or going home with one another, reiterate to your employees that your policies still apply at these ‘dos. It may even be an idea to conduct a refresher training course prior to the event, if you think your employees might be a little hazy on where the line should be drawn.

Don’t – forget to have fun, albeit within the parameters set out above!

Remember, prevention is better than cure. A few precautionary mechanisms put in place while planning your event may stop something much worse than a hangover the next morning.

If you would like our help on ensuring a safe festive season this year, please call Workplace Solutions on 02 9635 7966.

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