Avoid pitfalls of the work Christmas party

We’ve all heard the horror stories of the work Christmas parties that got out of hand. With the Christmas season well and truly in full swing that email from the HR Manager in your inbox about behaviour at staff Christmas parties is worth reading.

In short, do not take the words ‘free bar’ as a personal challenge.

Christmas parties are a great way to let your hair down at the end of a hard year and celebrate success with your fellow colleagues - and you should, you've probably deserved it.

However, there are legal implications and pitfalls that come with too much Christmas cheer at the office party - for both employers and employees.

For employers, now is the time to be checking and updating workplace policies and reminding employees of their obligations to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

Preparation is the key to ensuring that everyone has a positive experience at the end of year Christmas party. As long as everyone knows what the expectations are for the function before it happens, then you are on the right path to having an entertaining and enjoyable event.

Top tips for work Christmas parties:

1.    Have workplace policies for alcohol & drugs, workplace safety, and harassment in place and up to date;

2.    Remind employees of the policies and their responsibilities to the business and each other before the function and specify that it is a work function;

3.    Set a defined start and end time for the function;

4.    Provide food and non-alcoholic drinks;

5.    Put a limit on bar tabs or simply don’t provide one;

6.    Select a venue close to transport or arrange transportation/designated drivers;

7.    Be mindful that ‘Kris Kringle’ gift giving, joke staff ‘awards’ and skits/performances may cause offence and almost everyone will have a camera of some description.

Crossing the line

When lines of conduct are crossed, your first response may be to discipline staff, or even terminate employment if the transgression is severe. But leaping into action with good intentions can backfire horribly if the planning and processes are missing. Your business can be exposed to risk for just $70 which is the cost of lodging a claim for unfair dismissal with the Fair Work Commission. 

Incidentally, an average unfair dismissal claim costs Australian businesses about $13,500 not to mention legal costs, reputation damage and productivity loss.

Before dusting off the Santa hat, make sure you have seriously considered your responsibilities in protecting staff and the business so you can finish the year on a high note!

Still need some help? Call the NSW Business Chamber on 13 26 96 and find out how we can assist your business.

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