Holiday Party

How to Have a Holly, Jolly, and Safe Holiday Party This Holiday Season

The holidays are a great opportunity for companies and their employees to come together to socialize, celebrate yearly accomplishments, and take part in an important team building activity.

So, how can your company plan a holiday party that is both safe and fun?

A safe and successful business holiday party starts with establishing a clear set of expectations from a business conduct and alcohol or (other substance) consumption perspective.

To avoid “misunderstandings” during the holiday party, it’s a good idea to review your Bullying and Harassment Prevention Policy with your employees and management highlighting that:

  • Bullying and harassment including sexual harassment is not acceptable or tolerated in the workplace.
  • All employees will be treated in a fair and respectful manner at all times
  • All employees must treat each other with respect and courtesy at all times (Note that your policy most likely will not state: “except at the Holiday party when you drink too much…or when you are high”)

Employees must understand that this is a workplace function, and they are expected to behave in a way that is not harassing, intimidating or otherwise inappropriate.

So, what steps can you take to ensure your next holiday party is a positive experience for everyone involved? Here are a few tips we recommend you follow.

Set Expectations Before the Party Starts

Set expectations prior to the party to avoid any unpleasantness afterwards. Disrespectful and rude behavior will be considered misconduct and will not be tolerated.

Prior to the event, inform employees that all workplace rules and policies are in effect, including those related to bullying, harassment (including sexual harassment), and workplace violence.

Liability and Alcohol

Look at options for serving alcohol? Consider Jacobsen v. Nike Canada Ltd. where an employee drank too much during the office holiday party and went to a bar to continue drinking and drove impaired.

He subsequently got into a serious car accident and ended up a quadriplegic. A court found that the employer was 70% responsible for the damages the employee incurred and awarded the employee a whopping $2.7 million in damages.

To help avoid liability here are some tips:

  • Hold an alcohol-free event
  • Set expectations: model the behavior. A drunken manager doesn’t have a lot of credibility
  • Communicate clearly before, during and at the end of the party DO NOT DRIVE IMPAIRED
  • Prior to the party, plan travel and accommodation arrangements. Some options could include taxi vouchers, carpooling with designated drivers, or booking hotel rooms for employees
  • Monitor employees’ alcohol consumption through designated alcohol monitors
  • Set up ticket-based alcohol consumption to limit quantities. Do not provide free and open access to the bar
  • Don’t serve alcohol to under-aged employees or employees who are already visibly intoxicated
  • Close the bar at least 1 hour before the end of the party

In case one or more of your employees drink too much or may otherwise be visibly impaired — we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Consider a system whereby employees leave their car keys with an attendant at the start of the evening to avoid the situation of having to remove keys from an impaired guest.
  • Arrange to have a sober coworker drive the employee home. Alternatively, call the employee’s significant other. Don’t just offer to do so.
  • Insist that the employee take a cab, paid by the employer.
  • If all else fails and the employee insists on driving in an impaired state, call for police assistance.

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way During the Holidays

Setting these expectations will go a long way in preventing issues after the party and save you headaches — and not just those caused by hangovers.

Do you need a Bullying, Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy? Windley Ely can help.

At Windley Ely, we have the expertise to help you build a health and safety program that will allow you to exercise your due diligence, making your business a safer place to work… and party this holiday season.

Book a discovery call today to learn more about how we can help you create a health and safety program that protects your business.

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