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Staff Party Perils To Avoid This Silly Season

Woohoo, it is almost the end of the year. That means it is time for a staff party! Does that suddenly conjure up thoughts of employees dancing on tables, drinking more than you ever thought possible and doing embarrassing things that will be retold for all of the following year?

There are more perils involved with a staff party than simply dealing with drunk employees. Let’s look at the things you need to avoid when you plan your office Christmas party.

What To Watch Out For At Your Staff Party

The Alcohol Issue

Alcoholic beverages are generally expected at a staff party. After all, the team have worked so hard during the year, don’t they deserve to blow off a bit of steam?

Well yes, but within reason. As an employer you have a responsibility when serving alcohol. There have been many cases where an employee has taken things too far and done something they would not normally have done sober. Yes, singing loud karaoke is offensive to the ears, but not really offensive in any other way.

But pulling the fire alarm as a prank, verbally abusing your superiors, or sexually harassing your colleagues are extremely offensive. In fact, they would normally be grounds for dismissal.

Until you involve alcohol.

If an employer has supplied a steady stream of alcohol that has caused the employee to become overly intoxicated, the employer could be held liable for the employee’s actions.

What Are The Employer’s Obligations With Alcohol?

Legalities

If you are planning to hold your staff party at your work premises you must first assess if you are legally allowed to serve alcohol. If it is a job site, or an operational site then you may be banned from doing so. You could be fined or lose any licenses you hold if you choose to ignore that regulation. The reason for it is safety. Alcohol does not belong around heavy machinery or dangerous areas. Even if you are drinking in the office portion of the premises, it is still considered as drinking onsite.

Employee Conduct

Enforcing good conduct is so much harder when you involve alcohol. People's judgment is impaired and their inhibitions are much lower when they have been drinking. It is even harder to enforce it when you are away from the office. Most employers value their staff and would not want to dismiss them for alcohol related conduct.

Employee Safety

It is an employer's responsibility to keep their employees safe at work. Alcohol can seriously affect health and safety in the workplace. Intoxication is a threat to health and safety so intoxicated employees should really be kept out of the workplace.

The term workplace extends to cover any offsite location if an office party is being held there. It also extends to vehicles that are used for work purposes, even if it is not a company vehicle. So, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that no employees drive a work vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. It is recommended that you ensure your employees get home by other means.

Damage and Harm

If an employee causes damage to property, or harm to someone while carrying out their work duties then the employer will be liable for the costs of repair. As an office party can be considered an extension of workplace activities, then any damage or harm caused during it can come back on the employer.

What Can Employers Do?

As there are a number of traps for your business to fall into with the staff party, we would recommend the following precautions:

●       Prior to the party, send out a memo indicating that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated

●       Moderate the amount of alcohol served

●       Mitigate some of the effects by serving food and non-alcoholic drinks

●       Have some managers remain sober to keep an eye on the proceedings

●       Encourage collective responsibility amongst your team members

●       Provide transport options to get your staff home safely and forbid the use of work vehicles for transport to and from the party

●       Don’t be a killjoy - don’t police things so heavily that the team can’t have any fun!

Just because there are some perils when throwing a staff party, don’t let it put you off. An end of year celebration can be a great way to thank your staff for all of their hard work during the year. Make sure you have safety parameters in place so that everyone can have a good time without having too much of a good time!