5 Tips to Keep Your People Safe at the Christmas Party

It’s that time of year again. The annual workplace end-of-year party looms. After years of Covid restrictions, staff will be keener than ever to let their hair down and celebrate.

Yet this poses all sorts of dilemmas for employers. While you want to reward your team for their hard work during the year, you also want to ensure everyone follows the rules.

As a responsible employer, what can you do to minimise potential risks and manage alcohol over-indulgence, reckless behaviour and conflict?

1. Be proactive

Think ahead and prepare wisely. Make sure your policies regarding alcohol and drug consumption are watertight.

It’s your responsibility to provide a safe workplace, which extends to the Christmas party. The rules apply for all work-related events, regardless of whether you are at the office or another venue.

Make sure your drug and alcohol policies include:

  • Guidelines on when the policy is operational.
  • Steps to be taken if an employee is under the influence.
  • Employer responsibility for safe alcohol service and duty of care.
  • Employee responsibility for safe and respectful behaviour.
  • The standards of behaviour expected at all work-related events.
  • Disciplinary actions that may follow misconduct.

Provide information about the effects of alcohol and drugs. This includes impacts on work capacity, health, behaviour and risk to self and others.

Revisit your other key policies as well, including sexual harassment, bullying and anti-discrimination.

2. Keep employees in the loop

As well as letting staff know venue, date and times, you must ensure everyone is aware of workplace safety requirements.

Include a reminder of your company’s alcohol and drugs policy with the invite, and ask for confirmation that it has been read, understood and agreed to. Be clear that disciplinary action may be taken if rules are broken.

3. Stage a safe event

Arrange clear start and finish times for the event, and consider travel arrangements to get people safely home afterwards. Ensure that the venue serves alcohol responsibly. Appoint a trusted employee as a responsible contact person for the event. They can monitor behaviour, oversee the gathering and help people out if they need assistance.

4. Don’t forget hostile workplace guidelines

Office parties are notorious for unleashing bad behaviour. Be sure your anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies are in place and understood by all staff members.

While the upcoming Respect@Work bill is still before Parliament, actions arising from a hostile workplace – or work Christmas work party – may still face disciplinary proceedings.

5. Know when to enforce your policies

You can only take action against misbehaviour which occurs ‘at work’. Check that the incident happened within the scheduled time limits of the work function, and not in the employee’s own time. According to Fair Work Commission (FWC) requirements, assess whether the misbehaviour:

  • Is likely to cause serious damage to the employer-employee relationship.
  • Is incompatible with the employee’s duties and role.
  • Is likely to damage the company’s reputation with clients/public.

Always seek legal advice if you need clarification.

Need help navigating drug, alcohol and safe workplace policies? Call our team to find out how we can help.