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Small business guide: how to throw a safe and fun work party

Did you know that a work party is still considered part of the ‘workplace’ for the purpose of workplace health and safety (WHS) obligations? Even if held at the local pub, a Christmas or end of year party is considered a workplace function.

As a business owner, you’re responsible for the safety of your employees at the party location.

Here are 7 tips to help you and your employees celebrate safely:

1. Review your workplace policies

Before the event make sure your internal policies and procedures are up to date. These include the policies for acceptable behaviour, and bullying and harassment in the workplace.

2. Remind employees of their responsibilities

Send an email reminding your employees that:

  • the start and finish times of your party and that any activities after this time are not considered an extension of the party
  • while the party is a time to relax, it’s still a work function. The usual rules still apply, including those around harassment, discrimination and bullying
  • your social media policies apply at the party. Encourage people to get permission from their colleagues before posting on social media.

3. Limit the amount of alcohol

While an open bar may be a nice way to reward your employees, if you serve alcohol, make sure it’s served legally and responsibly. There should also be enough food and non-alcoholic drinks available.

4. Check the venue before the party

Visit the venue beforehand, or arrive a bit earlier, so you can address any hazards before the party starts (for example cords potentially causing people to trip).

5. Think about transport for your employees

Plan a party location that’s close to public transport or make arrangements for staff to get home safely afterwards. For example, organising a bus, pre-ordering taxis or arranging designated drivers.

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If you’re visiting a more remote location, consider providing a party bus for your employees.

6. Nominate someone to manage the party

Having someone to keep an eye on the proceedings helps to ensure the party doesn’t get out of hand and that any complaints are dealt with quickly.

7. Have gift guidelines

It’s fun to run party games like Secret Santa with your employees. However, it’s good to be mindful that’s what’s funny to one person can be offensive to another.

Keep your gifts above board by providing some guidelines and asking employees to be respectful and mindful of bullying, discrimination and harassment policies.

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