It’s nearing the time of year when you get to have fun at the office Christmas party. These parties are often held as team-bonding activities that ingratiate employees to their employer. They can start off positively because they are intended to show them that they are valued by the company, but there is also the risk of these parties becoming nightmares for the small business that throws them.
There is no one who wishes to have their Christmas party become an awful affair. One of your coworkers could drink too much eggnog and give away an inappropriate gift for Secret Santa. Another could try to drive home after having far too many beers. Then there is the extreme case where someone might sexually harass several coworkers then go on a tirade and curse at the bosses. This is a true story unfortunately. The individual in question was fired. The employee was reinstated eventually because he maintained that it was his company’s fault for supplying him with alcohol, but the embarrassment remains.
If your Christmas party is not organized properly, it could turn into legal nightmares. This is the opinion of expert Hamish Petrie, President of Ingogo. Serious penalties can exist for individuals and the organizations they work for. This is in part because many parties do not follow workplace safety laws at all times.
Companies expose themselves to risks such as $3 million in fines for improperly managing their employees during a Christmas party at the office. Employees are fired from their jobs as a result of Christmas party behavior such as excessive drinking and the emotional outbursts that often go along with it. No matter where the party is held the party is considered an extension of the company and the working environment. This means that legally the potential for being fined due to violations of workplace laws still exists. Wise companies must regard any party venue as part of the office itself for the duration of the party.
There are some rules that managers and business owners would be smart to follow when throwing an office party:
1. Be careful with alcohol
The most apparent rule when it comes to throwing office parties is to limit alcohol consumption. Do not serve it to employees or coworkers who look like they have had enough to drink already. Closing the bar early could be wise because it prevents party attendees from hanging around a long time. Many of the legal problems that occur at Christmas parties result from excessive drinking. Drunk partiers will be prone to starting fights, harassing others and engaging in bullying.
2. Remind partiers that this is an office party
Gently remind employees that the party is part of their job. In fact, some companies require employees to attend. This should tell them that they must adhere to the proper rules of office decorum even while having fun. Gifts should be appropriate and chosen so as not to offend anyone. Staff can be reminded of the party’s office status through an email before the event.
3. Help people get to the party
Don’t leave staff stranded at the event aftewards, and help them to get there by providing transportation. It would be awful for someone to be thrown out after a drunken fight without having a way to get home. The company is responsible for the well-being of its employees as they journey back to their homes. The party organizer needs to be mindful of these as they watch each person depart from the venue.
If you have enough people, it could be a good idea to organize carpooling or a bus to take people home. Partiers can also depend on services such as Uber. It might not be safe to have a drunk person use public transportation alone, so Uber and taxis could be worth spending the extra money on. There are crazy stories of the person who fell asleep on the bus while drunk, and though these are funny they often end badly for the person involved.
Employees need to be reminded to be on their best behavior while at office Christmas parties. They should be encouraged to connect with each other and to celebrate the seasonal festivities. At the same time, they must be aware that their conduct reflects upon them as an employee of the company.
Company behavioral policies such as harassment policies and codes of conduct still apply at parties. It could be wise to email everyone a copy of those policies before the party or to even post them at the door they must pass through when entering the venue.
Do not let anyone drunk drive themselves home from the party. If you do, the company may end up requiring the services of drink driving lawyers to fix a preventable legal dispute. The office Christmas party can be both fun and safe for everyone involved.