Christmas parties are a great opportunity for your workers to unwind and celebrate the end of yet another busy and successful year.
However, when planning your Christmas celebration, it is important to remember that your event is generally considered a ‘work activity’ under workplace-related legislation.
This is regardless of where the event is held, or if the event is held outside of normal work hours. It may also include the trip home.
Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their workers at Christmas parties or events, just as they are when workers are carrying out their normal activities. This covers both your paid and volunteer workforce.
Under workplace safety legislation, workers are also responsible for their own health and safety and the safety of others.
Checklist for planning a workplace Christmas Party
- Ensure that there is a dedicated bar person who has undertaken responsible service of alcohol training. You could also hire professional service staff for this activity.
- It is illegal to serve alcohol to persons under the age of 18. If you have underage workers, consider a wrist-band system so that bar staff can easily identify them.
- Ensure that there is food provided. This should be substantial and hearty, such as hot finger food or full meals. Avoid having too many salty foods that encourage drinking.
- Non-alcoholic and low-alcohol alternatives should be provided, and the drinking of water should be encouraged throughout the event.
- Some workers are likely to drink to excess, be mindful of this the next day if they are required to drive or operate machinery.
- Consider arranging for travel home after the event, such as providing a bus or cab fares.
- Ensure that food is being prepared and served safely. Buffet meals can be particularly at risk if left out for too long or at the wrong temperature.
- Consider the ethnic and religious backgrounds of your workers and if required ensure that you have culturally appropriate foods available.
- You should also check for any particular dietary needs, such as allergies or vegetarian.
- Ensure that food is clearly labelled with potential allergens and cultural taboos.
- Consider having a designated finish time, and stick to it. You might also consider an earlier cut-off time for the service of alcohol.
- Make it clear in the invitation that any festivities that continue after the official party are not endorsed by your organisation and are at their own risk.
- Inspect the chosen venue for possible hazards like slips and trips. Be extra vigilant with this as alcohol can impair people’s judgement and reaction times.
- Make potential risk areas out of bounds.
- If hiring a venue, ensure that the venue has an appropriate level of Public Liability insurance.
Discrimination and sexual harassment
- If you are running a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa, make sure the rules for gifts are clear. For example, gifts should cost no more than $10, and must not be offensive or sexual in nature.
- Ensure that your workers are aware that the drinking of alcohol is no excuse for offensive or inappropriate behaviour.
- Also, make it clear that your organisations’ regular policies on discrimination, workplace bullying and sexual harassment apply to this event.