Advice Christmas

Christmas party obligations

In the process of planning your Christmas party?

Did you know your Health and Safety responsibilities as an employer are likely to apply to your end of year celebration too? Check out our advice on meeting your obligations here.

We are approaching the Christmas season at speed! Before sending out that Christmas party invitation to your team, its important you understand your obligations across three key areas: 

  1. What are my obligations as an employer around staff functions? 
  1. How can I ensure our social event provides for a safe environment with clear behavioural expectations? 
  1. What do I do if the worst happens, how should I respond? 

Your obligation to provide a healthy and safe work environment under the Health and Safety Act 2015 could very well apply to your end of year Christmas party too. If your party is organised, promoted, and funded (either partially or wholly) by the employer, then it may be considered an extension of the workplace.  

For this reason, it is very important that you consider taking all reasonable steps to minimise any identified risks. If anything was to happen at the party, worst case scenario is that your business (or even individual employees of the business) can be held responsible for any health and safety breaches, for failing to provide an environment that is safe and without risks to health. 

Incidents include any kind of accident that causes harm, illness, or injury, but could also include inappropriate behaviour, like sexual harassment or bullying.

Our tips for minimising risk: 

Policy review/update 
It’s a good time to review and ensure that your current workplace policies are both up to date and fit for purpose, this may include house rules, code of conduct or your health and safety policy. These should clearly outline what is and isn’t acceptable conduct from employees, and the potential consequences if there is a breach of company policy.

Set expectations early 
Before the celebrations begin, consider reminding staff of the abovementioned policies, and that there is potential of them facing disciplinary action for their actions at the party, as the terms and conditions of their employment agreement and any applicable company policies continue to apply for the duration of the function. 

Looking after employee wellbeing 
A responsible host is obligated to provide adequate food, particularly if alcohol is being consumed. Consider taking steps to limit alcohol availability if there is a bar, and make sure there is a good range of non-alcoholic options available too. Consider appointing a health and safety representative at the function to keep an eye on proceedings, and to identify and mitigate any potential risk during the event.  

Consider transport options 
Consider how your employees will get home from the function. There is no obligation for you to provide transport, however your health and safety responsibilities do mean that you need to put steps in place to make sure staff are able to get home safely. You could advise employees of the public transport available in advance, arrange taxi vouchers before the party ends, or ensure there are enough sober drivers to get everyone home safely.  

Oh no, somethings happened! 
If something untoward does happen at the Christmas party, you should first conduct a fair investigation in good faith before deciding the next steps. Our Advice Service can help you work through this process, and provide you with the appropriate templates. Get in touch on 0800 472 472 (Australia freephone 1800 128 086), or at 

As the Christmas season approaches, Retail NZ is sharing all the information you’ll need to know for a successful holiday season. From public holiday entitlements to recruitment tips, customary closedowns, to security and loss prevention, take a look at our Christmas Hub.

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