Have you risk assessed your Christmas Party?

Have you risk-assessed your Christmas Party?

I know it sounds bah-humbug. It’s not. It’s simply the voice of reason. Planning the perfect Christmas Party means keeping in mind everything that could possibly go wrong.  

By Jim Vass.  


What's your party plan?

The festive spirit, a few alcoholic drinks in the mix, extra people such as staff partners, maybe a few clients, dancing – it has all the hallmarks of a fantastic time, or it could be a recipe for disaster. No one wants anything to go wrong, but it’s important to acknowledge that it’s entirely possible for any number of things to do just that. So, make sure you’ve planned your celebrations carefully. Above all, make sure you’re appropriately insured.  

The annual work Christmas function is undoubtedly a great opportunity for everyone to down tools and come together for some fun. And most Christmas parties, in fact the vast majority, run without a single hitch. But there are some that unfortunately make newspaper headlines – for tragic reasons. So, it’s important that in your planning, you err on the side of caution. In fact, I urge you to go ahead and be overly cautious and make sure all your bases are covered. 

Responsibility rests with you

As ‘bosses’, we have a responsibility to each of our team members – to ensure they have a safe environment to work in. Legally, this responsibility extends to after-hours work-related functions too. And in cases where the get-together involves spouses or children when appropriate, then we are responsible for these people as well. Of course, we must extend a level of trust that they’ll all behave sensibly under our watch, but all bets are off when there’s alcohol involved because people have different tolerance levels, and can each react very differently to a few drinks.  

So, there are a few things to consider that might seem obvious, but they are worth reiterating.   

  • Do you have a workplace function policy? You should, and it is a good idea to circulate the document to all employees prior to the event to ensure they know what’s expected with regard to acceptable behaviour.  
  • Obviouslyas alluded to above, alcohol is a big factor. If you’re hiring beverage staff, make sure they have a current Responsible Serving of Alcohol (RSA) license.  
  • Make sure everyone can get home safely. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a mini-bus and drive them home yourself, but you should ensure guests have access to a number of suitable options, taxis, Uber, or whatever transport means will get them to their destination safely.   
  • Food – of course there’s the general food safety rules which your catering team should be well aware of. And they should have the appropriate food handling licences. If you’re planning a ‘pot luck’ or DIY affair then make sure that food is labelled and stored correctly. This is not just about avoiding food poisoning – be aware that people have allergies and also anaphylactic responses to some ingredients. Will you also have someone on site who knows basic first aid? It’s not a bad idea.  
  • Check the venue, make sure it’s reputable and safe. Make sure people have access to cool drinking water and can get outside. This is, after all, summer, and people can dehydrate quickly in closed, crowded spaces. There have also been reported instances where fire alarms have failed, or no one has been trained to use the fire extinguishers. Check on these. Don’t forget there could be the potential for some idiot wearing a rayon shirt to light an alcoholic drink …   

Make sure your insurance is up to date

It’s also a good idea to contact your insurer and brush up on the details of your insurance policy to make sure your public liability policy is going to cover your function. If your function is a little out of the ordinary or involves activities that would be considered high risk – for example, maybe you’re a small team going sailing and, or hot-air ballooning – then you might need to get specific cover.  


It’s also critical that you have an Employment Practices Liability policy in place. This type of policy can provide protection to your business for things like harassment, discrimination, and other employment related issues.  

 I’m not trying to make you paranoid, just aware, because your business can be held vicariously responsible for the actions of your employees. But with all the potential risks covered you can relax and enjoy yourself.  After all, it’s your night too.  

 Small business can be hugely rewarding but it is undeniably hectic at times and it’s vital that everyone gets an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy themselves, including you.  



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