The Christmas and end of year festive season is upon us. It’s the time of end of year pressure and rush to get orders or projects finished but it is also the time for the regular round of Christmas parties and celebrations.
The risks and need to manage seasonal or periodic work pressures are a normal occurrence in most business and should already be covered by existing Work Health and Safety and Risk Management policies and training. Apart from being a busy time it is and should be business as usual. The risk and control measures should be well known and dealt with through regular training.
The same cannot be said of the annual in house or customer Christmas parties. Just because the event does not occur on work premises, is not in work time, is attended on a voluntary basis by employees and customers and their families and others does not mean it is not connected with employment. Nor does it mean the usual risks, controls and workplace rules or standards can be reduced or do not apply
The increased risks involved require stronger and clearer control measures. Some of the issues the employer needs to address, consider and clearly communicate to employees and other participants about the function are:
- Is the function to be employer sponsored and or funded?
- Is the function to be onsite or at an off-site venue? In paid time or unpaid time?
- Immediately after work or is there a break between?
- Is attendance compulsory, voluntary or encouraged?
- What dress standards apply? Corporate wear uniforms, casual or other dress?
- Does invitation only or ticket admission apply or is entry open to employees, customers and accompanying guests?
- What type and limits apply to alcohol available and served?
- When does the function end?
- What licensing requirements and other venue specific issues food safety, footwear, noise, restricted site access and movement restrictions apply if held on site near work areas?
- What are the travel arrangements to and from including use and parking of company vehicles?
- Are call out and standby crew able to attend? If not what arrangements are made for them?
- What are the First Aid and security arrangements?
- What about presents, gifts and FBT?
- What religious and other cultural considerations apply?
- Is the entertainment culturally and business appropriate? What about the after party?
- Who is responsible when things get messy? Who is the nominated management event representative?
- Who is responsible for media and police liaison if required?
- Who is responsible for managing the aftermath and explaining any adverse publicity to the Board or CEO?
Without being “Dr NO”, Mr Scrooge or “ The Great Party Slayer!” and banning Christmas parties completely or holding them in the local church hall these and other risks and hazards need to be identified, addressed and controlled before, at and after the Christmas party.
In most situations the employer has a clear responsibility and duty of care for incidents at and after the Christmas Party whether it is on site or off site. A thorough risk assessment should be undertaken and all of the above matters considered.
Generally the employer may not be responsible if the incident involves serious misconduct of employees and employees have been advised that the usual company policies apply.
One area that is particularly difficult is inappropriate behaviour. Thanks to mobile phones it is very unlikely that what happens at the Christmas party will stay at the Christmas party. Incidents of note have the potential to go viral on social media before the party is over.
In most cases the usual organisational codes of conduct and employment rules apply. Managers are still managers, harassment, bullying and discrimination are still not acceptable even if some have a poor dress sense or behaviour becomes somewhat uninhibited. The availability of alcohol may also be a mitigating factor for bad behaviour particularly if no limits or controls are set e.g. an open bar.
Is it just a Christmas Kiss and some untidy behaviour? Is it significantly more? Most importantly what would you do about it?
The above is an except from an article recently posted by The Skills Shack. The Skills Shack is an online portal with resources and tools to help small businesses plan and manage all aspects of business. You can visit The Skills Shack team at www.skillsshack.com.au.