It's that time of year again! Your organization is just
about to hold its annual holiday party.
Planning and hosting a holiday party and similar work-related
social events is a great way to team-build and improve workplace
morale. There are, however, some challenges with which you must
grapple in order to keep everyone happy and safe, avoid legal
liability and, most importantly, be successful.
In this bulletin, we provide you with a non-exhaustive list of
tips to be kept in mind when planning and hosting your holiday
party this year.
1. Don't Leave Anyone Out!
Ensure that employees are not excluded from the event on the
basis of religious belief
Consider non-denominational holiday activities
Emphasize to your employees that participation in any holiday
activity is entirely voluntary and non-participation will not be
noted or recorded
2. To Serve or Not to Serve?
Restrict the amount of alcohol consumed by each employee and
his or her guest by using a drink voucher system or hiring a
bartender rather than offering a selfserve bar
Close the bar approximately one hour before the scheduled end
of the party
Provide non-alcoholic refreshments as well as alcohol
Ensure that food is served along with alcohol
Assign a supervisor or manager to monitor alcohol consumption
and give him or her the power to limit the service of alcohol
Ensure that you have host liability insurance
3. Host the Event at a Hotel or Restaurant
Ensure that the hotel or restaurant at which you host the event
has a licensed commercial host responsible for providing qualified
staff to serve alcohol and monitor consumption
Make sure the commercial host has its own liability
Hosting an event at a hotel or restaurant does not eliminate
your organization's duty of care toward its employees, but will
ensure that there is some degree of control over the amount of
4. Get Everyone Home Safely
Encourage employees who plan on drinking to leave their car at
Remind employees that drinking and driving is viewed very
seriously by the organization
Encourage employees to take public transportation or make
advance arrangements for a ride home
Provide taxi vouchers to employees and their guests to ensure
their safe trip home (consider perhaps providing a couple of taxi
vouchers as employees and their guests may attend another venue
where they continue drinking before heading home)
Make arrangements with a hotel to provide discounted rates to
employees who choose to stay downtown rather than go home
5. Be Aware of Employee Behaviour
Any misconduct that occurs at the holiday party is likely to
have the same legal ramifications as a similar incident of
misconduct that occurs at the workplace or during regular working
Employers have a duty to consider and investigate any complaint
or incident of alleged harassment that occurs at a work-related
Intervene if you become aware of any inappropriate or improper
6. Safety First!
Take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of employees
attending the holiday party
Injuries that occur at a work-related social event could well
be compensable by your organization
Best of luck in planning and hosting your holiday party this
year. If there is any employment, labour or workplace human rights
issue with which we can assist you, please feel free to contact us.
Contact information for all of our lawyers is available through our
We wish you the very best this holiday season!
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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