Workplace Christmas celebrations are an important festive tradition. Allowing decorations at work and organising a party is a great way to keep up staff morale and make people feel that they are working hard for an organisation which cares about their welfare and happiness. For management, it is however also important to be aware that Christmas parties organised by a company fall under the category of “work activities”, and therefore the employer still has a duty of care towards their staff.
The first point to make is that this does NOT mean pretending it isn’t Christmas and avoiding celebrating the festive season altogether. A lot of the time, the health and safety measures you put in place do not even have to be communicated to staff – the key is that everyone has fun and no-one gets hurt. A measured approach is what we’re after here, so here are some things to think about before you order the wine and get out the tinsel.
Christmas decorations. Make sure equipment is fire retardant, electrical equipment (fairy lights) are portable appliance tested within the last 12 months and that they are visually checked prior to use. Don’t block fire exits with decorations and don’t use swivel office chairs to hang things – instead, get a suitable set of steps and ensure staff know how to use them correctly.
Christmas parties. If offering alcohol, ensure that there are soft drink alternatives and consider offering food to help soak up alcohol. Instead of an open bar, give out tokens to monitor people’s alcohol intake and consider having a designated person to drink less and stay sober. This will probably be a member of management. They don’t need to stalk around like the Grinch, just keep an eye out that things aren’t getting out of hand. Depending on the activity, consider completing a risk assessment beforehand to ensure that you have considered all possible hazards - you don’t have to share this with employees but just put in measures to prevent dangers which could cause issues to others.
Planning a Christmas party outside the office? Provide staff with clear information on location and timings and ensure they know how to get home or to the hotel. If appropriate, provide approved taxi numbers so that people know who to call at the end of the evening. Remind staff of company policies relating to alcohol, conduct and violence. All of this can be disguised as providing helpful information to ensure everyone enjoys the event.