If your business is hosting a holiday party this year, facing liability issues as a result of inappropriate party behaviour is a sure fast way to douse jolly spirits. As an employer, you must do everything you can to ensure the safety of your employees and guests, especially if alcohol is involved.

Holiday parties are planned with the best of intentions. Still, if you’re not careful, they can create an environment for unwanted advances, misconduct, and potentially illegal employee behaviour that can cause harm to others while damaging your organization’s reputation. We’ve all heard the post-party horror stories!

What can employers be held accountable for?

  • Harassment, including sexual harassment
  • General misconduct in violation of your codes and policies
  • Impaired driving
  • Injury or fatalities

The good news is there are strategies you can implement to protect employees and guests.

Here are some proactive steps you can take to avoid HR headaches during the holiday party season:

  1. Make attendance optional and voluntary. In other words, make it clear that attendance is not a mandatory part of their employment. Some employees may choose not to celebrate the holidays or have other conflicting obligations.
  2. Establish and distribute formal, comprehensive policies.
    • Employee conduct policies
    • Respectful workplace policies
    • Social media policies
  3. Send a memo reminding employees about policies, expectations, and codes of conduct. Remind your staff that a holiday party is still a work event.
  4. Mind what you say. As an employer and leader, it’s essential to set the tone for the event by modelling the behaviour that you expect. Stay professional, avoid engaging in discussions about sensitive or confidential topics like performance, promotions, salaries, and always evade gossip, negativity, or inappropriate comments about colleagues.
  5. Prevent alcohol-related risks. Before your event, send out an email that sets the tone for moderation. Instead of having an open bar, hand out drink tickets or enforce a drink maximum, serve wine and beer but not spirits, and be sure to provide alcohol-free alternatives and plenty of food.
  6. Plan an activity. A successful holiday party starts with knowing and understanding your company culture and building an event around the shared values that connect everyone. To keep people engaged and prevent ‘boredom drinking,’ plan activities that encourage staff interaction. Attend a group cooking class, plan a volunteer event, or even pre-load some bracelets at a venue like the Rec Room for some friendly competition.
  7. Provide taxi chits. At the end of the night, it’s important that everyone gets home safe and sound. At the start of the function, provide taxi chits or public transit passes to all employees and guests to prevent impaired driving. Continue to check on guests and be willing to take car keys away if necessary.

We hope that our strategies ensure you and your staff can relax and celebrate the joys of the season at your holiday party, while keeping your staff and other guests safe, and minimizing your organizational risk.

If you seek further information or guidance, give us a call! Our HR experts and workplace investigators will work collaboratively to develop and implement the policies, processes, and codes of conduct you need to keep everyone safe this holiday season.

Book your complimentary consultation today!

P: 403.290.0466
E: info@cenera.ca

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