Whether attending an office Christmas party or watching it unfold on screen in a holiday comedy, company-sponsored holiday parties can be an HR professional’s worst nightmare. It is estimated that over two-thirds of employers will host some form of holiday party for their employees in 2016, with many of these parties serving some extra holiday cheer. While holiday parties can be a great way to build morale and show appreciation for employees’ hard work, employers need to ensure that this December fun does not turn into a New Year’s liability.
While there is no way to completely shield your company from liability arising out of employer-sponsored holiday parties, there are simple steps to let employees have fun while limiting liability:
1. Consider limiting the amount of alcohol served by distributing drink tickets or setting a predefined time for the enjoyment of libations.
2. If your employees have committed “party fouls” in the past, send a “pre-party” reminder addressing the company’s policies regarding harassment as well as the appropriate dress code.
3. Make clear that employee attendance at such parties is strictly voluntary and in no way a requirement of employment.
4. Hold the event off company premises, and if alcohol is going to be served, at an establishment with a valid liquor license and professional bartenders who know how to respond to guests consuming alcohol in excess.
5. Monitor employee behavior at the party. If necessary, remind employees that their behavior should not be such that it necessitates them landing on the naughty list.
With these tips and some pre-party planning, your office holiday celebration can be festive while being safe and (hopefully) incident-free. We wish you a happy and safe holiday season!