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Don’t let work Christmas parties spoil a safe working year

With many workplaces starting to organise Christmas break up parties, employers are reminded the 'silly season' is not an excuse to disregard normal safe work practices, including responsible service of alcohol.

Employers should remember they have a responsibility to manage risks to the health and safety of their workers, which includes risks encountered during work functions.

Employers should ensure staff understand what behaviour and conduct is acceptable and what the repercussions are if they don't act appropriately. Reminding people in advance of the policies around acceptable behaviour and conduct is a good start.

Managers also have an important role in making sure they consider potential risks when planning these events, so they run smoothly and people go home safely.

Staff behaviour expectations do not change at a work function whether alcohol is involved or not. Workplace harassment, bullying and even violence can arise during these functions, with serious consequences.

Complaints are often made after work functions, especially when photos or comments are posted on social media during or after the event. It is wise to review and communicate your social media policy before the celebrations start.

Events should be inclusive, but staff shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in activities or situations they are not comfortable with.

Staff shouldn't feel pressured to drink alcohol, so make sure soft drink and food are available. Employers, managers and workers all have a role to play—it's easy to get carried away after a couple of drinks, but workers can't rely solely on an employer to keep them safe if they take it too far.

Tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable Christmas party include:

  • choose a venue that is appropriate for planned activities
  • remind staff about workplace policies, including your code of conduct, bullying and sexual harassment policies
  • review and communicate your social media policy
  • serve alcohol responsibly (this includes ensuring no alcohol is served to underage staff, and limiting or denying alcohol to intoxicated staff)
  • ensure managers and senior staff members set a good example and model appropriate behaviours
  • provide food and non-alcoholic drinks
  • set appropriate start and finish times for the function
  • choose a venue with access to public transport or facilitate safe transport options for staff who have been drinking (eg cab-charges, or designated drivers who won’t be drinking alcohol)
  • consider appointing a responsible person to monitor the event, and to be a point of contact in the event of anything going wrong tis person should be familiar with workplace safety policies and have the authority to act on any issues that arise).