Holiday Party Risk Management Tips for Employers

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 12.56.07 PM.png

The holidays are here!  Parties are starting to populate our calendars, shopping lists are being developed, and perhaps you’ve already started to plan out your company’s holiday gathering.  Way to be on the ball!

Company parties often come with concerns about overindulgence in alcohol, which can pose threats legally and socially among team members.  When planning your company holiday party, you want to be sure to minimize these risks, and alcohol consumption on the company’s dime can be a cause for concern.  Everyone loves to celebrate, and company outings and parties are important for team bonding.  So, what are some best practices when it comes to your employees and holiday parties where alcohol is served?  Here are our top tips:

1.     Communication is everything, so set the stage accordingly.  When you send out the 'save the date' for your company party, include a gentle reminder of company expectations in advance regarding responsible behavior and alcohol.  If necessary, you may want to consider adding a reminder of the company’s drug and alcohol policies.  Then, be sure that your management team is prepared to provide good examples of these expectations.  Managing from the top can help to prevent mishaps later.

2.     Of course, celebrating what you’ve accomplished over the year is an important part of any company holiday party, but making sure that the rules are followed during the event certainly can’t hurt.  Actively monitor employee interactions and behavior during the party to see if anyone is intoxicated, involved in heated discussions, or if you see pairs wandering off alone.  Task team managers with monitoring their groups to prevent any issues, and have a plan in place with specific steps to take if anything should transpire.

3.     Announce a start and end time for the event and keep it on the earlier side.  Having a party from 5-8PM will often prevent things from getting too out of hand.

4.     Get a special code for Uber or Lyft to pay for transportation home, then make sure that employees who are intoxicated make it home safely.

5.     If you do decide to serve alcohol, don’t have an open bar. Provide drink tickets to limit consumption and close the bar early.

6.     Good food will set the mood.  Be sure to provide plenty to eat, particularly if there’s alcohol involved, so that people are properly fed.  Having a sit-down meal as opposed to a buffet will make sure that individuals have a plate of food in front of them and will be focused on eating and talking as opposed to standing around the bar.  This will also help cut down on expensive bar bills.

7.     Be mindful of employees throwing after-parties.  While you can’t control what happens after they are gone, you can communicate to your team that after-parties are not recommended. Also, make sure that team managers avoid any inappropriate interactions offsite with their staff members.

8.     Don’t require that employees attend. 

9.     Consider an alternative to the evening dinner party.  Why not try mixing it up and focusing on something different for a change.  You could plan an outing such as a scavenger hunt, a white elephant gift exchange at lunch time, a team adventure in an escape room, or you could even use the party money to provide them with a monetary gift instead.  Extra money around the holidays is always appreciated.