Usually, the work Christmas party is a time to let your hair down and celebrate the year that was. However, because the party is usually held in a less than formal setting, and often alcohol is involved, issues that would usually never arise during work hours, always appear at the work Christmas party.
Unfortunately, Christmas work parties can be a source for poor workplace behaviour such as bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and work health and safety incidents. From an HR perspective, it also raises some challenges, as the line between work and out of hours conduct can become blurred.
Generally, Council’s will have a Code of Conduct and other policies that apply to their staff’s employment. This Code of Conduct and Policies can also apply to an employee’s conduct at work-related functions. In the event that your conduct at the party is at odds with a workplace policy, you may face disciplinary action.
If you are part of the Christmas party planning committee, here are some handy tips to consider:
- Review the policies you have in place. We recommend that you check there is a statement contained within that specifically covers employee behaviour at workplace social functions.
- Ensure that staff are aware of and have received training around appropriate workplace behaviour and relevant policies.
- If serving alcohol – ensure it will be served in accordance with RSA Regulations, provide food and non-alcoholic beverages and have other activities.
- Appoint a responsible person (preferably a senior Manager) who will keep an eye on things.
- Communicate the start and end times of the function. We recommend that there is a clear distinction as to when the event is no longer regarded as a work-related function.
- Advise staff they should make necessary travel arrangements to get home safely at the end of the event. Provide information regarding rideshare options or provide public transport timetables.
On a final note – have fun and may you make it through your Christmas party without a visit to HR.