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Bosses told to ‘designate sober staff’ at Aussie Christmas parties

A group of colleagues drink champagne while dressed in a Christmas theme for a work party.
Bosses have been told to ditch the open bar and designate sober staff for the office Christmas party. (Source: Getty)

It’s almost that time of the year when things wind down and Aussies whip out their dancing shoes for the office Christmas party - but this year’s celebrations could look a little different for some.

Employsure’s head of health and safety, Felix Yeung, said while the end of year shindig was a fun staff catchup for some businesses, for others they could turn into a horror story littered with alcohol-fuelled incidents.

So, how do you have a fun event without leaving everyone with more than just a headache the next day?

Yeung suggested businesses designate some staff members to remain sober throughout the festivities.

“Employers should consider designating ‘Sober Staff’ at Christmas parties; typically, someone senior who can observe staff conduct and quickly act on strategies to quell boozy behaviour by calling a taxi for an intoxicated employee or directing them to leave where necessary,” Yeung said.

“For the designated sober staff, it means swapping the booze for a non-alcoholic drink, but it can save a load of HR headaches and gives the company a front-line defence against any employee who oversteps the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.”

And if having some designated sober-Sally’s wasn’t enough, Yeung said ditching the open bar should be considered.

“Employers shouldn’t enable binge drinking. It’s perhaps no coincidence that some of the biggest Christmas Party horror stories typically originate from events where employers had offered an open bar, which is nothing but a recipe for overindulgence,” he said.

“Employers can offer an alternative, such as drink tokens, smaller bar tabs or even ask staff to contribute to the cost of their own drinks.”

Yeung said bosses needed to be stern with staff in the lead-up to any office parties to remind them to behave themselves.

“Employers should have a clear policy outlining employee obligations and expected standards of conduct at work-related events,” he said.

“In the lead-up to the party, employers must ensure that staff are reminded of the standards of acceptable behaviour and their obligations to comply with company policies; particularly those relating to matters such as bullying and harassment, drugs and alcohol in the workplace and health and safety.

“Staff should be made aware of the start and finish times of the party and that any activities carried out after these times are not an extension of the Christmas party.”

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