Like many other business owners and managers, you’ve probably been too busy focusing on surviving another 12 months in a global pandemic to plan an end-of-year party for your staff. But despite another unusual year, New Zealand is in a relatively fortunate position; depending on where you are in the country, you may have very few COVID-19 restrictions in place which means a year-end celebration is a real possibility.

So, if you can, and you’ve decided to end the year on a positive note with a staff Christmas celebration, here are a few things you’ll need to consider to help prevent your party from becoming an HR disaster.

1. Set the ground rules

You’ll be telling your team all about the party: where it is, what will happen and more. In keeping with the spirit and theme of the event, this will be a positive announcement. But it’s also your first opportunity to set standards of behaviour and emphasise the need to be safe. Your communication or invitation should, at the very least, remind your staff to monitor and limit how much alcohol they drink and instruct them on how to get to the venue and home safely. By clearly establishing your expectations, you’re ensuring that you’re doing your part to keep your employees safe. And, sharing your drug and alcohol policy before the event helps to set the standard of behaviour; if someone should then breach this policy, you can follow the proper procedure to manage and if necessary, discipline unacceptable conduct fairly.

2. Manage the supply

While this may be an unpopular decision with staff, setting a limit on the bar tab, either by the amount or by what is included, will save you a lot of money and help avoid the onslaught of HR issues that typically follow the holiday season. A limited bar tab communicates your expectations for drinking responsibly and may discourage employees from excessive alcohol consumption. You can also ensure that bar staff physically serve alcohol to employees. By physically serving or limiting alcohol supply to staff, you have some control over discretely “cutting off” someone who may have had too much to drink. A bar limit can also ensure that excessive consumption is a deliberate personal choice. Alcohol and misconduct can be a nasty duo, and you have an obligation to ensure that your employees continue to act responsibly, even when off duty.

3. Ensure adequate security at the venue

Security is another crucial consideration for Christmas parties. If the venue offers security, your cheapest and most efficient option is to coordinate with the venue to ensure your end-of-year party runs smoothly. If the venue has no protection or their security systems are insufficient for the size of your group, you may need to make additional arrangements. It can’t hurt to inquire about the venue’s surveillance capabilities and policies. Hopefully, your party won’t require either. Although, when something goes astray, surveillance and security footage are crucial for gathering evidence about an event, whether it’s employee misconduct or otherwise.

4. Consider medical assistance

Check if there will be easy and quick access to medical assistance in case of an accident or emergency at your party. Do you know where the nearest hospital is? Does anyone on the guest list know how to perform CPR? If you’re planning your Christmas party in a remote location or on a boat, you should have access to a qualified first aider and a way to get ill employees to more comprehensive help (such as a hospital or doctor). You never know what could happen; it’s always best to play it safe.

5. Organise transportation

Transportation is an essential component of your Christmas party planning that your company should help organise. Shuttle buses, Uber accounts, taxi chits and directions to cab, bus or train transport are some of the ways you can coordinate travel to and from your event. However, if you decide to proceed, you should take all reasonable steps to ensure employees get home safely. The last thing you want is for your employees to pick up their car at the office and drive home under the influence of alcohol.

6. Remind employees of your drug and alcohol policy

It’s a good idea to send around a copy of your company’s drug and alcohol policy a week or two before the party to remind them of their responsibilities. After all, your staff represent the company at the Christmas party (especially if you’ve invited clients too). With HRA Cloud, you can send our ‘Alcohol and Other Drugs’ and ‘Business and Social Functions’ policies to staff through our Self-Service module. This way, you can track which employees have read and acknowledged the policy. If any incident arises, you have up to date and immediate access to the policy records to prove that the employee was aware of their obligations.

7. Make sure your event follows the relevant Government guidelines

Without bringing the festive mood down, it’s important to remember not to become complacent when organising a gathering during a pandemic. While New Zealand’s current lockdown levels might enable us to have a celebration, you still need to take precautions while at the event, such as encouraging good hygiene, physical distancing, gathering limits and masks. You can also ensure the health and safety of your staff by providing plenty of hand sanitiser and reminding your employees to stay home if unwell.

It’s smart to have a plan ready to communicate to your people should COVID-19 restrictions change. You can still be optimistic that this is an unlikely scenario, but a plan will give you confidence that if anything does happen, you’ll know what to do. For guidance around alert levels, the traffic light system and updates on COVID-19 in New Zealand, make sure you check the Ministry of Health website.

HR Assured takes care of the administrative and complex parts of HR, so you can focus on the fun stuff (like strengthening your culture through staff events) without the headache!

Clients of HR Assured can contact the 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service at any time.

If your business is not an HR Assured client, we’d like to offer you a no-obligation, complimentary 30-minute consultation call. Employers can speak to our friendly workplace relations consultants and seek advice about this new legislation or an existing workplace issue. You can arrange your complimentary consultation here.