The Annual Office Christmas Party

The Annual Office Christmas Party

It is fast approaching the festive season and office Christmas parties are in full swing.  To avoid a claim to Human Resources the day after the office Christmas party, we have compiled a handy list of “dos and don’ts” for employers to be mindful of this festive season.


1.  Do ensure that all employees are informed (preferably in writing) of the start and finish times of the office Christmas party.  Arrangements should be made for staff to go home at the conclusion of the Christmas party, and if appropriate, cab charges or other transport arrangements should be provided to those staff who may require it.  In the event that some staff choose not to take advantage of the employer’s hospitality, it should be made clear to them that the formal office party has concluded, and the employer is no longer responsible for staff.

2.  Do ensure that employees are encouraged to dress up, have fun, let their hair down (within reason) and enjoy a social interaction with each other out of normal business hours and (if appropriate) away from the workplace.  Employers need to warn staff prior to the office party that the function is still part of the workplace, and that professional courtesy and manners are still expected of all staff during the office Christmas party.

3.  Do ensure that adequate food is supplied to all staff during the Christmas party; especially if an “open bar” is to be provided.

4.  Do ensure that all staff are aware that although they are welcome to enjoy the employer’s largesse in providing “free drinks”, that normal rules in relation to the consumption of alcohol and there will be an expectation of professionalism from staff during the office Christmas party.


1.  Don’t encourage the overconsumption of alcohol (the boss on the floor paralytic is not an appropriate look for an employer!), and in the event that one or more staff take advantage of the “open bar” then it is a responsibility of the employer that appropriate steps will be taken to ensure everyone has a good time; which may include closing the “open bar” early.

2.  Do not use the opportunity of the Christmas party to make inappropriate comments or compliment fellow staff members, when it would not be normal practice in the workplace. Employers should be mindful of the effect of alcohol loosening tongues and staff should be advised prior that inappropriate behaviour, language and advances will not be tolerated by the employer, and that they may be sanctioned for any inappropriate behaviour afterwards.

3.  Don’t use the opportunity of the office Christmas party to whine about employment conditions, particularly to the boss, and especially not when under the influence of alcohol.  Staff should be reminded that the office Christmas party is still part of the workplace.  Staff should be told that they are still being monitored and watched during the office Christmas party and may still be sanctioned for inappropriate behaviour or comments.  The umbrella of the office Christmas party won’t stop a complaint being made to Human Resources!

Overall enjoy yourselves but be mindful that it is still a work event and staff are still being monitored by employers.  Employers should ensure that the parameters of what is expected from staff at the Christmas party are clearly relayed to staff prior to the office party to prevent any nasty surprises the next day.

This article was written by Litigation Principal Nicolina Lademann.

DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from marshalls+dent+wilmoth and other relevant experts.