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Company Christmas parties are a great opportunity to get employees together. But they can also present a plethora of potential risks. Add social media to the mix and even slight misconducts can be amplified if they go viral. What might once have been a slight embarrassment handled promptly and quietly by the company, can now quickly become a reputation issue.

So along with planning the venue and catering, as a business owner you also need to consider the potential risks. Here are some tips to help you in the planning process.

Before the party

Planning is essential to minimise risk. If you’re aware of the specific risks you face, you’ll be able to formulate strategies to cope with anything that might go wrong.

  • Understand the risks. Being outside the normal work environment generally puts employees at ease. While this is a good thing, it can also mean that they are less aware of their behaviour and more prone to misconduct. You need to have policies in place to address any incidents that may occur at the Christmas party, such as harassment or work health and safety issues.
  • Understand your liability. Whether the party is at the office or a different venue, as an employer you have the responsibility to maintain a duty of care in relation to your employees. You’re required to comply with work health and safety obligations and make sure that employees are taken care of. And remember, liability can also occur vicariously. You can be liable for the misconduct of your employees.
  • Take practical steps. To make sure you and your employees are protected at your Christmas party, it’s important to take some key steps:
    • Have workplace policies in place. For Christmas parties, these policies should include codes of conduct relating to work functions and the responsible consumption of alcohol.
    • Send out an all-employee email reminding everyone of these policies and their responsibilities. Outline what behaviour is acceptable and what is not.
    • Make it clear to employees that post-party activities are on their own time and the company does not endorse activities that occur after the finish time.
    • Appoint responsible managers to supervise the party and give them clear authority to act if they see inappropriate behaviour.
    • Check that your insurance policies cover the type of function you’re planning.

During the party

While the Christmas party is a good opportunity to take a break and relax with your employees, it’s important that you don’t get too comfortable. You need to pay attention and minimise risks.

  • Consider the time of day you hold the party. Lunch time may be better than an evening event. And have clear start and finish times stated on the invitation.
  • In an environment where alcohol is available, it’s essential to keep an eye on how much is being consumed. Place limits on the supply of alcohol and make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available.
  • Provide plenty of food. This will help relax people, but will also help slow down alcohol consumption.
  • If the party is away from the office, consider organising transport to ensure everyone gets to and from the venue safely.
  • If you become aware of inappropriate behaviour by an employee, take immediate steps to stop the behaviour. Be sure to follow your relevant policies carefully. If someone has had too much to drink, send them home.

If something goes wrong

The rumour-mill will undoubtedly fire up after the party. And the use of social media can mean that post-party rumours can spread easily. So it’s crucial that you have a plan to deal with any incidents or complaints promptly and properly. Take disciplinary action in accordance with your policies. Don’t sweep incidents under the carpet!

Christmas parties are a great way to reward your employees. Although we’d all like to let loose a little, it’s important to realise that even if you’re in a casual setting you still have a responsibility to look after your employees. In the end, if they have a good time, you’ll also have a good time. So taking a few steps to minimise your risks can ensure a spectacular party.

Emjay Insurance Brokers provides risk management advice and solutions to SMEs of all sizes. They make it easy for you to access the advice and services you need to ensure your business is protected. Contact us today to discuss your needs on (02) 9796 0400.

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