Here are a few suggestions on how to keep the busy Christmas holiday season a safe, productive, and enjoyable one at your workplace. If you have other tips, share them below.
Keep holiday vacation scheduling fair:
Some businesses close their doors for a company-wide break during the holidays. But if your company is open for business during the Christmas period, determining which employees are required to work can be a tricky process.
When ensuring you have adequate coverage for your customers, you should select employees to work during this period based on the needs of the business and be ready to objectively justify your selection of employees. Be sure not to target employees that do not have children or do not celebrate Christmas. Allowing employees to volunteer to work or setting up a rotating schedule are other strategies you may deploy to keep things fair.
Keep employees safe from violence
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of workplace violence (see our FAQ) include working during times of increased levels of stress and the presence of alcohol.
The frantic pace of the Christmas season, particularly for those dealing with the frenzied public, and the common practice of serving alcohol at holiday parties certainly increases these risks.
Ontario's Bill 168, an amendment to the Occupational Health & Safety Act, states that employers have an obligation to take explicit actions to reduce the risk of violence against their workers. This can include hiring additional staff for the holidays, having managers or security guards to ensure that interactions do not escalate, and finding ways to reduce stress for your employees. Concrete plans on how to curb excessive alcohol consumption during holiday parties is also important.
Bill 168 also makes employers liable if they fail to prevent domestic violence from impacting the workplace (which includes workplace events like a Christmas party). If you suspect domestic violence or know of a history of spousal violence, it might be necessary to prevent that individual from attending. Due to the delicate nature of this issue, we recommend getting legal advice before taking action.
Keep your party a positive experience
Keep it real with Secret Santa
Exchanging gifts or having a "Secret Santa" in the workplace can be seen as a bit of fun. But some staff members might take advantage of the anonymous nature of the exchange and give inappropriate or even offensive gifts to their colleagues.
Organizers of the gift exchange must ensure participants are aware that Secret Santa falls under your company's HR existing policies and that anyone selecting a gift that might cause offense or be construed as bullying or harassment will face consequences.
Keep "decking the halls" safe
Putting up Christmas decorations can be a fun and festive way to celebrate the season at your workplace. However, it doesn't make you a Scrooge to insist that employees take all the necessary safety precautions when putting up those decorations. The people assigned to do the decorating might not be familiar with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), so it's your job as the employer to enforce them.
Having someone injured or putting in a WSIB claim is not the way you want to start the holidays! Take precautions such as providing staff with suitable step ladders to put up decorations, making sure that Christmas trees are not blocking fire escape routes or exits, and checking any novelty lighting for defects.
Keep everyone productive
Have any questions about how to make your workplace a positive and safe environment? Don't hesitate to contact Anna Aceto-Guerin at (519) 624-0800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Season's Greetings everyone!
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