For employers and their staff, experts share some wise words to make the most of your office Christmas party - and avoid the hangovers

It's that time of year again when the annual office Christmas party is just around the corner.

Maybe you've already got your E-vite and have your cute outfit all planned and ready to go. It's occupation themed this year so obviously you're going as a unicorn - duh.

But with all the pending excitement, it could also be the perfect time to take a moment to shudder and recall that pash on the office printer at 2017's event. You know, the one with Kenneth from IT who you still have to call when your emails won't update.

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So, maybe do yourself a favour this year and make a game plan ahead of the office festivities, one that won't see you get so sloppy you wake up blocked from Uber - again.

To help you party at your best and keep your wits about you, Senior Employment Relations Adviser from Employsure, Jessica Lestrange, has shared some tips for avoiding common Kiwi office party fails. And highlights the ramifications if you or someone else ignores the rules.

"We encourage employers to host a Christmas party or end of year function for employees to celebrate their achievements," Lestrange shared.

"They just need to consider the risks that can come about in these situations. Many owner-managers don't realise, but a lot of the legislation which they have to adhere to during the working day applies just as equally to Christmas parties, and ignoring it could lead to costly and time-consuming legal issues," she said.

Here are Lestrange's top five fails to be aware of

Sexual harassment

"If the work Christmas party is organised and paid for by the employer, the obligations generally remain the same: just as though it was in the workplace. Employers are therefore advised to clearly outline what is inappropriate behaviour and what the repercussions can be if misconduct takes place," she said.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) notes the definition of the "workplace" — and therefore what constitutes workplace sexual harassment — has become broad due to the increase in digital technology, such as email and social media, which means our working hours are no longer limited to 9-5pm.

Over-consumption of alcohol

The celebratory atmosphere also means there's a high chance of alcohol in the mix, which brings with it additional challenges for employers. For health and safety purposes and in an attempt to reduce the chances of inappropriate conduct, Lestrange says employers should ensure the serving of alcohol is responsible and employees have plenty of access to water and food: "You might also consider an early cut-off time for the service of alcohol."

Getting home safely

When it comes to staff getting home safely, employers should not underestimate the potential consequences they may face. If an employee is injured on their way home from the function, the employer could be faced with a workers' compensation claim.

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The seriousness of these issues should be enough to encourage employers to take proactive steps to educate and supervise their team. Preparing transport home is a highly effective way to minimise the risk: "If someone gets too intoxicated, send them home safely straight away. Don't let them get behind the wheel."

Ruined reputations

Professional and business reputations are at risk. Imagine the difficulty a boss would have managing their team if they drunkenly share inappropriate information about their love life. Other less damaging but highly amusing examples might also include getting too close on the dance floor or a deluded microphone takeover.

Final word of advice

The Christmas party is supposed to be a way to reward staff for their hard work, and business owners should stress that before laying down the law.

Finally, "Don't kill the fun – remind employees it is an enjoyable celebration, and that employees who do not adhere to the policy or code of conduct, spoil the party for everyone," advises Lestrange.

"Careful and thoughtful planning can help eliminate the risks in advance and ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time."

For employees, Lestrange says the bottom line is: "No matter how much fun you're having, you're still officially at work."