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The 5 Best Tips to Avoid a Christmas Party Disaster

Posted by: on 4 December 2015 in Compliance, Finance

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December 4 – by David Bates 

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas again? Right now you or one of your colleagues are probably busy planning your work Christmas party. But amongst all the Christmas cheer and free-flowing wine and beer, things can often go very wrong! This week, we’ve provided some simple – but highly effective tips – to help ensure your Christmas party (and all other work events) go according to plan.

Tip 1: Make someone responsible
It’s critical that the business choose a responsible member of management to take ownership of the event. This person will sign-off on the venue, agree on the budget for drinks and food, and be responsible for monitoring behaviour at the event. It’s a great idea to choose someone new for this job each year, unless of course you have a team member who is always quite happy to stay sober and watch others embarrass themselves!

Keep in mind that Workplace Health and Safety laws make certain ‘duty holders’ responsible for protecting the health and safety of colleagues, and this obligation can’t be ‘delegated’ to someone else. So while it’s important you put someone in charge, it’s still everyone’s responsibility to ensure appropriate and responsible behaviour.

Tip 2: Remind Everyone of Their Obligations
Your work Christmas party – along with ‘birthday drinks’, ‘away days’ and other similar events – are generally regarded as events ‘in the course of employment’. This means that the same policies and procedures that apply during the normal working day also apply at these functions.

Now is a great time to remind your employees that sexual harassment, bullying, and disorderly conduct are just as unacceptable at the Christmas party as they would be on a quiet Monday morning in your office.

Tip 3: Choose a Suitable Venue
A few years ago, our team assisted an employer who had chosen (rather unwisely) to hold their Christmas party at an adult-themed restaurant. This resulted in two complaints of sexual harassment and an assault that was reported to the police!

Choosing an appropriate, central venue is critical because it sets the tone for your event and ensures employees are able to safely arrive and depart. If you’re finding it hard to book a good venue, think about having a picnic or barbecue (it’s a great time of year to get out of the office!), or arranging a get together at a colleague’s home.

Tip 4: Make Sure the Start and Finish Times are Clear
We recommend employers ensure everyone knows when the party will start and when it will end. Not only does this assist employees to plan transport well ahead of time, it also ensures everyone knows when the employer-sanctioned event is officially over.

One easy way to make this clear to employees is to close down/move on from your venue at the specified end-time. For example, if the party officially ends at 11pm, book a venue – such as a meeting room at a pub or hotel – that can be ‘closed’ by staff at that time. When employees move on from that location, it should be clear to them that the ‘work’ party has officially wrapped up.

Tip 5: Respond to Issues Quickly
If something does go wrong, the best thing you can do is take swift action. For example, if someone lodges a complaint about another employee’s conduct at your party, investigate and resolve it as quickly as possible. If you’re not sure how to handle these types of incidents, obtain expert advice before you act.

These helpful tips will help ensure your event is merry in all the right ways!

David Bates is the Managing Director of Workforce Guardian, Australia’s leading HR and employment relations service for employers. David is proud to provide a wide range of strategic, practical and plain-English employment relations advice and support to Australian business owners and operators.

ADP and Workforce Guardian have partnered to provide all ADP clients with free access to the the Workforce Guardian HR Advice Hotline.

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TAGS: Christmas Party Compliance Fairwork

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