The end of the year is fast approaching, which means the Christmas office parties are just around the corner. It is one of the few times of the year where employers and employees alike can sit back together, relax and celebrate the achievements of the past 12 months. After another challenging year for Australians, it is such an important time for employers to show their appreciation and allow their staff an opportunity to reflect, connect and enjoy spending time with each other away from the stresses of work.

Employers should always take great care to ensure staff Christmas functions are conducted safely to avoid any nasty HR hangovers in the New Year. But, again this year, they will need to take extra care to ensure everyone enjoys a COVID-Safe celebration.

COVID-Safe celebrations

As South Australia’s borders reopen, many employers are implementing policies and procedures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 entering their workplaces. Employers will, again this year, need to take extra care to plan a Christmas function where staff will have a great time in a COVID-Safe environment.

Employers should consider implementing these practical measures to ensure any planned Christmas celebrations are COVID-Safe.

Vaccination

Employers will need to consider, as Compulsory Vaccination requirements become more widespread in response to South Australia’s decision to open its border, whether your staff will need to be vaccinated to enter the venue for your Christmas office function.

Leadership

Leaders within businesses should demonstrate best practice COVID-Safe behaviours at this year’s end of year celebrations.

COVID Marshal

Consider the appointment of a senior member of staff to act as the COVID Marshal at the end of year celebrations.

COVID-Safe Plan

Ensure that your office and the host venue for your end of year celebrations have a COVID-Safe plan in place to ensure that compliance with all health directives is easy for all in attendance.

COVID-Safe check-in

Ensure all staff scan the QR code upon entry or fill out the check-in form to comply with COVID-Safe check-in requirements.

Health directives

Ensure you carefully check the current health directives in order to be aware of current restrictions.

Unwell staff

Make it clear to your staff that if anyone is feeling unwell, they should not attend the event, particularly if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Hygiene

Remember to stress the importance of hygiene to your staff at the end of year celebrations.

Food

Consider making single-serve meals available rather than the traditional buffet style shared catering to minimise the risk of transmission.

Event location

Consider holding your end of year celebrations at an outdoor venue for ease of compliance with social distancing protocols.

Event size

Ensure that the event is kept small. With the current restrictions in place, it may not be possible to have partners of staff at this year’s end of year celebrations.

Virtual event

Consider the possibility of a virtual event, particularly for employers with offices in multiple locations across Australia.

Tips to avoid the traditional end of year office celebration disaster

Employers need to be mindful that there are still many traditional risks that need to be managed for such events.

Employers should consider implementing these practical measures to mitigate and manage the risks of staff Christmas functions.

Supervision

Consider the appointment of a senior member of staff to act as the Event Manager who is responsible for ensuring that conduct at the end of year celebration is appropriate.

Culture

Consider reiterating the values and beliefs of your business. This may include a reminder about the key aspects of the Code of Conduct, in particular, communicating expectations about conduct at the end of year celebration.

Training         

Consider scheduling a refresher training (or even new training) on anti-harassment and anti-bullying to occur just before the end of year celebration.

Event details

Employers should provide clear communication to all employees about the details of the event. This should include information on the start and finish time of the event, transport to and from the venue, dietary requirement needs, and that any continued celebrations after the scheduled finish time are not sanctioned by the employer.

Food and alcohol consumption

Carefully plan the food and alcohol service to ensure that alcohol consumption is not excessive at the end of year celebration.

Transport       

It is sensible to provide appropriate transport to and from the end of year celebration for all employees.

Reimbursement         

Consider reimbursing employees for Taxi and Uber charges if they are needed to transport employees home safely after the function.

The after-party          

Discourage the after-party, which should not be sanctioned by the employer.

The leaders of the employer should not attend any celebrations that occur after the scheduled finish time of the end of year function.

Incidents       

If any incidents arise at the end of year celebration, the employer should deal with them without delay.

Assistance

We hope this practical guide can help your business avoid the Christmas Grinch, and we wish you a safe Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

If you require assistance to ensure that your Christmas function is COVID-Safe, please get in touch with one of our employment law specialists.

This communication provides general information which is current as at the time of production. The information contained in this communication does not constitute advice and should not be relied upon as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Should you wish to discuss any matter raised in this article, or what it means for you, your business or your clients' businesses, please feel free to contact us.

For more information, please contact...

Ben Duggan

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Jonathan Ikonomopoulos

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