The Christmas holidays are often a time full of joy and celebration, especially in the workplace. However, it is important that employers adhere to workplace safety guidelines even for office parties and other celebrations where alcohol and potential risks in office trips, sports or separate venues arise.
Here are a few guidelines that are important for both employers and employees to keep in mind.
- Professionalism and workplace rules should apply during office parties just as much as they do during workplace hours. Intoxication is not an excuse for exposing your fellow co-workers to health and injury risks or to potentially awkward (or liability) situations such as harassment, bullying or assault.
- Make sure you adhere to an end time for an office party. Once that time has been reached, stop the party and stop providing alcohol.
- While it is seemingly awesome that the inebriated manager or CEO wants to take everyone else out to the after-after party, ask yourself: “Is this a situation I want to be in?” If it looks like people are a bit too drunk or if you feel uncomfortable with the current situation, then do not risk your job or your safety by falling into peer pressure.
- A separate venue away from the office should be treated as professionally as the office itself.
- This is NOT the time to be stingy about safety. Make sure there is a safe way to get home, especially if alcohol is involved. Employers should take the responsibility of making sure their workers have access to safe transportation.
- If possible, it is always a good idea to appoint someone or a few people to oversee the festivities and make sure to responsibly handle any situations that arise. A good rule of thumb is to appoint people from all levels including juniors and management. Sometimes, senior employees or managers may overlook or be excluded from ‘the real fun.’
The Responsibility of an Employer
An employer has a duty of care to its employees to protect them from reasonable risks of harm. This duty is not discharged simply because they are all attending an office party.
Office parties and get-togethers are meant to be opportunities to bring workers and management closer together, as well as build cohesion in the workplace. That being said, sometimes there may be situations where the ‘worst’ comes out in some people when alcohol and inhibitions are put into the mix.
If there are any concerns during an office party, they should be promptly given to management. This is especially important later on in the evening when people have been drinking more and the risk of accidents and injury naturally rises as people become less and less aware of their surroundings.
It is also important for employers to encourage an open forum of communication with employees. A worker who is feeling threatened or unsafe should not have to be forced to keep quiet because they will ‘ruin the party’. Management should employ a communication system that allows workers to speak about their concerns without having to risk looking ‘bad’ in front of their peers.
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