News & Insights

Christmas Parties – minimise the risk without spoiling the fun

The annual work Christmas party is a much anticipated event.  Many people, employers included, do not realise the potentially very serious problems that can arise after a work Christmas party.

As an employer you have an obligation to provide your employees with a safe place of work.  Even where a party is not taking place on your premises, you remain liable for the health and safety of your employees, because the event is work related.

Alcohol affects everybody differently and while many employees always drink and act responsibly, excessive combination of alcohol by staff members can lead to inappropriate behaviour, indiscretion, fighting and even sexual harassment.

All employers should ensure that the workplace operates an anti-bullying and harassment policy and all staff members should know that this policy applies to them whether they are in the workplace or elsewhere.

You should encourage moderate alcohol consumption.  It is useful to draw a line between the official work party and the non-official work party and for Senior Managers to leave the festivities at a fixed time to reinforce this point.

A responsible employer will minimise the chances of drink driving by arranging transport home for employees after the event.

It is also useful to emphasise to employees in advance that certain topics of conversation are off limits, including work performance, salaries and bonuses, offensive jokes and potentially hurtful gossip.

Lastly, if you receive a complaint, treat it with the same seriousness as you would if the alleged incident had taken place in the workplace during working hours.