It’s that time of year again when business is starting to wind down and everyone is starting to think about the Christmas break. Before that happens however, most businesses will be first organising the Annual Staff Christmas party. This usually takes shape in the form of a lunch or dinner and will usually involve the consumption of alcohol, but it may also include other activities such as paintballing or a day at the beach with a BBQ.
While more often than not the Christmas party is just a great day out for staff to relax and unwind, sometimes issues can arise. To help avoid potential issues it is recommended that a memo to staff accompanies the party invitation which outlines the expectations and guidelines for the staff Christmas party. Below we have provided some suggestions to consider including in your memo.
It is worth reminding staff that while they may not be engaging in their normal workplace duties, they are in fact still ‘at work’. This means that all the same policies and procedures that apply in their normal working week still apply at the Xmas party. This includes discrimination and sexual harassment policies and office conduct policies for example. Including this in your staff memo will ensure that Bob in Accounting can’t say that he ‘didn’t know’ that slapping the receptionist on the backside wouldn’t be acceptable behaviour at the Christmas party.
Staff should also be aware that they are still representing the organisation they are working for and therefore need to behave appropriately. This can be particularly applicable where the event is held in a public place such as a restaurant or a bar. A company’s reputation can easily be ruined by the behaviour of just a few people so you need to clearly outline your expectations to all staff before the event.
2. Drugs and Alcohol
A memo should also include some guidelines around drugs and alcohol. Staff should be reminded that the organisations’ drug and alcohol policies still apply, and that anyone found taking illegal substances while attending the Christmas party may be subject to disciplinary action including termination.
Some guidelines around alcohol consumption will also be very important. The memo should advise staff that excessive drinking will not be encouraged and that staff will still be subject to disciplinary action for any actions that breach the organisation’s polices. The memo should also note that the company has the right to cease supplying alcohol to anyone who is found to be drinking excessively and also reserves the right to eject staff from the party if necessary.
In addition to outlining expectations to staff, organisations should also carefully plan events where alcohol will be consumed. This includes ensuring that staff will have food on the day both before and during drinking, and that the alcohol supplied is not excessive. Careful planning will ensure that staff can enjoy the day and a few drinks without an incident occurring.
Transport to and from the Christmas party will also be important, particularly where staff will be consuming alcohol. The memo to staff should include some guidelines and suggestions around transport such as recommended options, i.e. finding a designated driver for the day, sharing a taxi with colleagues, or having a family or friend pick them up. The organisation can also provide public transport information in the memo where applicable to encourage staff to find a safe journey home.
For smaller groups, it might also be worth an organisation considering hiring a bus for the day which limits the driving to and from the event, so that staff only need to travel home from the drop off point. Having staff arrive at the drop off point at the same time as their colleagues means staff are more likely to share taxis or catch a lift with a designated driver. Whatever is decided, the memo should strongly encourage all staff to plan their travel for the day to make sure they arrive home safely.
If the Xmas party will be finishing late into the night, transport will also be important to ensure that staff do not walk home alone from the venue, putting themselves at risk of assault. The memo should encourage all staff not to travel alone where possible.
Ensuring that staff are safe during the Christmas party is the overarching purpose of putting guidelines in place. Depending on the event you have organised, there may be additional guidelines around safety that you may wish to include in the memo. For example, if your Christmas party will include physical activity such as paintballing or sports on the beach, you may wish to include some rules around physical contact, and details on how to obtain first aid assistance should the need arise.
It is also important for employers to be aware that as the Christmas party is still considered working time, any injuries sustained by their staff will still be subject to workers compensation legislation, so dangerous activities are not recommended.
The purpose of providing a memo to staff is to set the expectations for the day so that staff can fully enjoy the day without the risk of incidents occurring. The staff Christmas party is a way to reward staff for their efforts and hard work throughout the year so the event should be enjoyable for all. When drafting a memo, be sure that the expectations are clearly set and the repercussions are outlined, but ensure that staff are also encouraged to enjoy the day and that the tone of the memo doesn’t put a dampener on the Christmas cheer.