If you're an employer, you have responsibilities for your staff (and potentially clients) at work Christmas functions. So, to keep you and your people safe we've put together a quick rundown so you can plan with responsibility, have fun and know on the day if/when you need to take action!
As many of us have probably witnessed in the past, when the booze starts to flow and everyone begins to let their hair down, some untoward behaviour can unfortunately rise to the surface.
Healthy and safety for everyone
Being an employer, you have health and safety obligations to your employees and others at functions. This includes (but is not limited to) misbehaving employees and any other employees or people whose safety is compromised by the actions of the misbehaving employee.
Often such incidents involve arguments between two or more people. Although this may start as a verbal exchange, in some cases things can escalate into physical fighting or damage to property. In such instances as an employer you are ultimately accountable if there is injury or any other kind of collateral damage.
Other types of incidents include sexual harassment, theft and pretty much any behaviour that falls into the category of misconduct or is outlined as unacceptable in employment contracts.
When things do go awry and the problem has been contained at the event, as an employer you should also consider running a disciplinary process after the fact that includes discipline or future warnings.
Ambulance at the top of the cliff – not at the party!
Prevention is a much better option than having to try and 'find a cure', such as breaking up a drunken fight so the party can continue. Here are a few pointers aimed at preventing problems arising at your Christmas party:
- Send a memo to all employees prior to the party outlining policy and protocols along with an explanation of the impact of violating these 'partying terms and conditions' may have on their employment.
- Provide plenty of food, water and non-alcoholic drinks, and limit alcohol availability.
- Organise sober-party-goers to keep an eye on things.
- Encourage collective responsibility by asking employees to look out for each other and 'dob-in' those who misbehave.
- Organise transport to and from the event and prohibit work vehicles being taken to functions unless by a dedicated sober driver.
Employer responsibility at client parties and elsewhere
Many issues as outlined above can also arise at client parties that you're hosting as an employer. Once again, you're responsible for everyone's health and safety including clients, your staff, and other attendees such as caterers and entertainers.
You may also be expected to take responsibility for your employees when they're attending functions elsewhere being hosted by your clients, suppliers or other associated businesses.
Reputation damage and losing clients
Furthermore, your employees' misbehaviour at functions elsewhere has the potential to damage your client or supplier relationship, the reputation of your business and potentially the loss of a client or supplier, not to mention other clients that may also be present or who hear about the behaviour after the event.
As we mentioned above with regards to your own staff functions, once any situation has been dealt with at the event, any misconduct may require a disciplinary process come Monday morning.
Once again, prevention is better than having to diffuse a situation on the day:
- Send a memo to employees due to attend an external function outlining relevant policies and explaining the impact of violating these terms may have on their employment.
- Tell your employees they're effectively attending client functions as 'ambassadors' of your business – how they behave reflects on the reputation of your company.
- Consider providing transport home such as taxi reimbursements.
Remember the ultimate goal is to have fun!
Finally, most Christmas parties are an opportunity for all to blow of some stream after a year of hard work and accomplishments. Try and balance prevention measures as outlined above with making sure everyone has a great time, they get home safely and the headaches don't last until a Monday morning summons to the boardroom.