Tips to ensure you have a safe & fun end of year celebration for all

It’s that time again when we start looking to the end of the year. We’re enjoying the warmer weather and plans are being made to celebrate what has been a successful year for our team. 

End of year celebrations and work related events are a great way to take time out to celebrate your team’s successes and say thank you to your staff for the hard work they have put in over the year. However, they can also be a source of potential HR risk. Common risks we see arise from work related parties are: 

  • Behavioural and conduct issues 
  • Alcohol related matters 
  • Sexual Harassment allegations 
  • Travel arrangement issues 

As an employer (and person in charge of a business unit or PCBU as it is referred to in WHS laws) you are obligated to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety of your employees. These obligations continue to apply during work related functions and events. Similarly, your employees are obligated to adhere to company policies and code of conduct.  

With some intentional planning and simple prep work, you can ensure that your event is safe and enjoyable for you and your team. 

Here are the HIES top 5 tips to ensure that your 2023 Celebrations are a success! 

1. Communicate your intention for the event 

Communicating with your team about your intentions for the event and expectations for behaviour will set the tone for the event from the outset.  

2. Make sure your HR foundations are up to date and that your staff know and agree to the expectations for conduct during your event.  

Making sure you have your HR foundations in check is just as important as booking the venue. 

  • Do a check to make sure you have up to date and signed employment contracts on file for all of your employees. Even though an employment arrangement can be written, verbal or a combination of two, double checking that you have everyone’s signed contract on file is a great way to identify any missing contracts. This way when a new contract is issued to them reaffirming their terms and conditions, it is also a reminder of their duties and obligations to the business, as well as reasons when employment can end.  

Ensure that you have policies in place covering:

  • Respect at Work which address Code of Conduct, Bullying and Harassment 
  • Consumption of Alcohol and Other Drugs 
  • Work Health and Safety
  • Confidentiality 
  • Social Media  

Reach out to the HIES team if you don’t have any of these policies, as we have them available to purchase if they’re not already included in your HIES membership. Alternatively, we can review what you’re currently using to ensure currency and accuracy.   

In the lead up to the event…  

  • Communicate to your team that these policies apply during work functions and reiterate your expectations during the event.  
  • Arrange for staff to review and sign off on each of the relevant policies – make sure to chase up all employees to make sure this is done. This way the business is taking a proactive approach to educating and informing the team about what’s appropriate behaviour and conduct and what’s not at a work related event. It also reminds staff of the impact of non-compliance.  
  • Check to make sure next of kin or emergency details for individual team members are up to date? Will you know who to call if needed? This can be achieved by checking each person’s file or simply asking them to reaffirm / update their emergency contact.  

In the days prior to the event, follow up with a final email, communicating again your intention for the event and the expectations regarding:

  • Behaviour
  • Drugs and Alcohol 
  • Social media 
  • Transport 
  • Who to contact regarding emergencies or report any concerns to.

 3. Plan your event with intention

Think about location  

  • How will people get there and get home? Is it convenient?  
  • Think about your WHS obligations to ensure people are safe getting to and from the event, as well as during the function.

Will your team enjoy this event?

  • Does it suit your team, are there any limitations that may exclude some of your team
  • Does it meet your intention of saying thank you? Will they value this experience?

What is the start and finish time? 

Putting specific start and finish times on the event helps limit the liability of the organisation for inappropriate conduct that may occur after the event.  

Food, water & non-alcoholic beverage options  

  • Ensure there is sufficient food for guests to consume. Having something to eat ensures staff have sustenance during the event and aids in responsible service of alcohol. Plus it keeps your staff happy!  
  • Providing drinks other than alcohol is important to cater for those who may not drink (for one reason or another such as religious or personal reason), and enforces your expectations of responsible drinking.  
  • If you’re going with a BYO alcohol option, your obligations of responsible consumption of alcohol remains due to the event being a work related function.  

Designate a responsible contact person

Nominate or call for a volunteer from business’s leadership team to be the designated person who will remain sober for the event. This person is then the point of contact should things go array or escalate. The responsible contract person’s role is to liaise with the venue around responsible service of alcohol as well as individuals in the event of an emergency or to de-escalate and manage situations.  

Responsible service of alcohol  

  • Will alcohol be served? Whether you provide alcohol or not, you are responsible for the safety of your staff.  
  • Ensure responsible service of alcohol, either by hiring bar staff or confirming this in advance with the venue.  
  • Be ready to monitor the situation and where necessary inform staff that their consumption of alcohol is no longer responsible and you need them to stop and switch to water, or arrange transportation for the person to leave the venue and head home safely.  

Travel Arrangements  

Ensure employees have safe travel arrangements, either by providing transport or ensuring on the day that your employees can get home safely after the event.  

Actioning this tip helps minimise the risk of a workers’ compensation journey claim because you know staff are getting home safely, particularly if they have been consuming alcohol during the event. This can be achieved by providing taxi vouchers, arranging pre-payment for rideshare trips home or coordinating designated drivers.  

4. Be ready to follow up any complaints raised after the event 

  • Even after perfect planning, things can still not go as planned. Make sure you are equipped and ready to respond to any complaints that may arise from the event. 
  • Do you have an incident report form and do your team know your reporting procedure?  
  • All complaints should be taken seriously and investigated following the appropriate procedures.  

Reach out to the HIES team to discuss any incidents that arise and/or if you need any support with the investigation and performance management process.  

5. ENJOY! Remember it’s about celebrating your successes and saying thank you. 

Make sure to take a moment to enjoy the festivities and celebrate the purpose of the event.   

Great Resources for our Members

Getting ready for your end of year celebration begins even before you book the venue, intentional planning can help ensure your party is a success and reduce the amount of post party headaches.

HIES has some great resources available to Members via the HIES Member Portal on our website. Simply log in, visit the Employee Lifecycle Documents page and scroll down to Work Functions & Events section or click on the links to access the “Work Function Comms” template and policy acknowledgement form. Our members can also watch our Christmas Party Webinar via the Member Portal that tackles each of the above points in more depth. 

Alternatively, contact us at [email protected] for more information about how we can support you and your HR in Health.  

We trust these HIES tips will help make your celebration one to remember, for all the right reasons!  

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