Holiday parties are a great time for colleagues to close out the year while getting to know each other better outside of the office. However, a good party comes with certain risks, and it is important for employers to plan ahead to limit legal exposure and ensure their employees are safe. As you plan your year-end celebration, consider the following:
Managing alcohol consumption: One person overindulging can create problems for everyone. To manage consumption, consider using drink tickets or a cash bar. Look for a venue outside of the office to host the event or consider hiring a bartender. Avoid having employees pour and serve each other drinks, and do not offer an open bar for an unlimited time. Additionally, be sure there is food available to prevent guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
Guest safety: If you are hosting the party outside of the office, be sure to inspect the venue beforehand. Ensure the venue is accessible for all of your guests and that there are plenty of exits in case of emergency. Also, think about alternative transportation for your guests and consider offering transportation vouchers or a shuttle.
Compensation concerns: Be sure employees know that attendance is voluntary and the company is not going to compensate employees to attend. Avoid asking or mandating employees to help with the event, such as checking in guests, without compensation.
Preventing Harassment: It is important to understand that harassment can extend outside of the office and work hours. It is a best practice for employers to review anti-harassment policies with employees prior to the event and have management lead by example. Most importantly, ensure employees know how they can report complaints if they experience or witness a situation they believe is harassment.
Naming the Event: Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and the goal is to make sure all guests feel included. Consider using the event to mark the holiday season or end of the year.
For employees: Remind workers this is a chance to have fun and network with their colleagues. Also remind them that they need to be respectful of their co-workers and to behave appropriately. A good rule of thumb is if they would not say or do something in front of their spouse/significant other, then it is not appropriate for the party either.