Creating a Professional and Festive Atmosphere: HR’s Guide to Workplace Christmas Parties

With only 25 days left until Christmas in 2023, company calendars are already filling up with work social events and parties. The holiday season brings joy and festivities, and for many companies, it culminates in the annual work Christmas party. While these gatherings offer a chance for employees to unwind and celebrate, it’s essential for employers to manage employee conduct effectively. This not only ensures a harmonious environment but also safeguards against potential legal issues and requiring performance management meetings the week after.

The Bramwell Partner’s HR team have collaborated and created the following comprehensive HR Christmas party guide on managing employee conduct during festive celebrations, including the consideration of alcohol consumption, sexual harassment, and psychosocial hazards.

Employer’s Duty of Care

In Australia, Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) have a primary duty of care in the WHS Act requires them to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other persons are not exposed to risks to their psychological or physical health and safety. This duty of care extends to company events, including Christmas parties.

Our HR Christmas party guide recommends all employers implement the following safeguards:

Communication of Expectations

Clearly communicate expectations regarding acceptable behaviour at the Christmas party, emphasizing that workplace standards and policies remain in effect.

Remind employees about the company’s anti-harassment, discrimination, and code of conduct policies.

Pre-Event Guidance

Provide guidance on responsible alcohol consumption, such as offering a limited number of drink tickets or organizing activities that don’t solely revolve around alcohol.

Communicate the importance of inclusivity, encouraging employees to be mindful of colleagues’ diverse preferences and sensitivities during the celebration.

Transportation Arrangements

Consider arranging safe transportation options, especially if the venue is located away from the workplace. This may include organizing paying for taxis or encouraging the use of rideshare services to ensure employees return home safely if alcohol is available at the event.

Security Measures

For larger company events, implementing appropriate security measures may be necessary to ensure the safety of attendees. This could include hiring security personnel or coordinating with venue security to manage potential issues.

Inclusivity and Diversity

Ensure that the event is inclusive and caters to a diverse range of employees, considering dietary restrictions, cultural preferences, and religious considerations in the planning process.

Designated Contacts

Designate specific contacts, such as HR representatives or managers, who employees can approach if they encounter any issues during the event.

Post-Event Support

Offer support and resources to employees who may need assistance following the event, especially if any concerns or incidents arise.

By proactively addressing these aspects, employers fulfill their duty of care during Christmas parties, creating an environment that prioritizes the safety and well-being of all employees.

Alcohol Management

Alcohol is often a staple at holiday gatherings, especially in Australia, however our HR Christmas party guide recommends employers ensure alcohol consumption is managed carefully. Encourage responsible drinking and designate responsible hosts or bartenders to monitor alcohol consumption. Employers should ensure there are non-alcoholic alternatives and ample food available.

Psychosocial considerations include recognizing that excessive alcohol consumption may contribute to stress or discomfort for some employees, and measures should be in place to address such situations discreetly.

Mitigating Sexual Harassment Risks

Workplace Christmas parties can unfortunately become venues for inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment. To mitigate these risks, communicate and reinforce your company’s anti-harassment policies. Remind employees of the importance of respectful behaviour and bystander intervention. If possible, designate someone from HR or management to be on the lookout for any concerning behaviour and provide a discreet channel for reporting incidents.

Celebrating the holiday season with colleagues is a wonderful way to foster team spirit and camaraderie. By proactively managing employee conduct, employers not only create a positive and inclusive atmosphere but also minimize legal, reputational, and psychosocial risks. Striking a balance between festive merriment and professional behaviour ensures that everyone can enjoy the holiday festivities in a safe, respectful, and supportive environment.

Looking for HR Christmas Party Support this Festive Season?

If you would like support in managing workplace behaviour and conduct in the workplace this festive season or would like some advice on handling any issues that have arisen, our team of HR consulting professionals are happy to assist you. For a free consultation and quote, please call our HR support team on (07) 3630 5695