Holiday parties are a long standing tradition in the workplace. The challenge is to balance the making merry with the keeping safe. Use these tips to keep employees safe, limit company liability and make sure everyone has a good time.
- Avoid any religious ties to holiday parties. A “Christmas Party” may appear insensitive to some employee; however, throwing a generic holiday party should everyone feels comfortable.
- Make the party optional. This is a fun event, a benefit not a chore. If employees do not want to attend don’t mandate it.
- Size the event to economic conditions. If you have just had a round of layoffs or haven’t provided raises in over a year, consider the message that an extravagant holiday party will send – a simple celebration may be a better option.
- Limit or don’t serve alcohol at all. If no behavior altering substances are available to your employees, or if you limit their access to it, chances are employees will be calmer and more in control of their actions. In addition to averting injuries, limiting alcohol consumption could prevent other types of actionable activities, such as property damage and sexual harassment incidents.
- If you are going to serve alcohol, check your insurance policy. A key step in your party planning should be reviewing your business insurance policy. If you’re going to be serving alcohol, the Independent Insurance Agents of America, Inc. (IIAA), based in Alexandria, Virginia, suggests checking your comprehensive general liability policy to be certain that it covers third-party liquor liability.
- Don’t think a cash bar solves your liability problem. While having a cash bar or a ticket system instead of an open bar may limit drink consumption, be careful. Having your employees and guests pay for the alcohol they consume on your property does not automatically limit your liability if an alcohol related accident should occur. According to the IIAA, if you’re charging for alcohol, you’ll need a liquor license and other liability protections.
- Plan an off-premises party so if you decide to serve alcohol at your party, don’t hold the party in your office. Have the party off premises and make sure the servers have a liquor license. That way you transfer the obligation to the provider of the liquor.
- Plan a non-traditional get-together such as a group outing to a basketball or football game, and the focus will not be on drinking, but on the g event. Other alternative party ideas from the U.S. Department of Labor include an amusement park outing, or a volunteer activity, such as a 10K run or bake sale, with proceeds going to a local charity.
- Hold a family friendly party and take the focus off the typical “sit and drink” party by inviting your employees’ spouses and children to the gathering. Plan activities for the children; perhaps hire a musician or storyteller. A family friendly party also reinforces the company commitment to work/life balance.
- Be clear with your employees before the festivities begin.
Make sure that your employees know your policy on substance abuse and that this policy covers any work situation, including an office party, suggests the U.S. Department of Labor. Post the policy in your employee handbook and on office bulletin boards, and send it out by email as a reminder before the party. HotlinkHR makes it easy to post policies and handbooks online and collect employee signatures.
- Provide transportation and keep your employees from getting behind the wheel of a car if they’ve been drinking by providing alternative transportation, both to and from the party.
The goal is to not make like Scrooge but rather ensure that everyone has fun while being safe.