Canada: Comfort, Joy And Peace Of Mind: Tips On Reducing Employer Liability During Holiday Parties

Last Updated: December 30 2013
Article by Heenan Blaikie

Hosting a holiday party for your employees is a great way to thank them for their hard work throughout the year. However, as an employer, you want to limit your exposure to potential liability while ensuring the safety and well being of your employees, guests and the general public. We have put together a "holiday checklist" that all employers are advised to follow when planning your next holiday party. What you choose to do will depend upon the type of party that you are hosting and can include any or all of the suggestions below.


You will want to limit or eliminate any liability for violence, harassment and discrimination. Generally speaking, the company may be liable for behaviour that occurs outside working hours at employer-sponsored social events. Therefore, consider the following:

  • When planning your party, be respectful of your employees' religious beliefs, ethnic and sexual diversity. Consider creating a holiday planning committee to plan your party: one that will make sure the date, menu, activities and theme are reflective and inclusive of all employees
  • Allow employees to opt out of your holiday party without consequence or negative connotation
  • Consider inviting your employees' spouse and/or family to accommodate those who may be unable to leave young children at home. This can also reduce the risk of harassment or offensive behaviour
  • Make sure the venue is accessible to those attending your party
  • Ensure your violence and harassment policy is up-to-date and is clearly communicated to all employees prior to the party
  • Remind managers of company policy and expectations. The company should expect them to set an example of professionalism at the holiday party
  • Remind employees that the holiday party is a workplace function, that the policy extends to the party, and that they are expected to behave in a way that is not harassing, violent, discriminatory, intimidating or otherwise inappropriate
  • Hold an alcohol-free holiday party


A sure way of limiting liability during your holiday party is to consider the following if you plan on serving alcohol:

  • Remind employees before the event about the risks of over-drinking and drinking and driving
  • Do not provide free and open access to alcohol. Use certified and/or experienced bartenders who are independently insured
  • Restrict the number of drinks an employee can have by issuing drink tickets. If an open bar is provided, limit the time that the bar is "open"
  • Charge for alcoholic drinks, and provide non-alcoholic drinks as an option
  • Hold a morning or afternoon party where alcohol is served
  • Avoid serving alcohol if your party includes physical activities, or serve the alcohol after the physical activity is completed
  • Do not serve alcoholic beverages to under-aged employees or employees who are already visibly intoxicated
  • Have food available throughout the party to slow the pace of drinking
  • Appoint managers to casually monitor guests' alcohol intake and to watch and caution any who appear to be intoxicated
  • Stop serving alcoholic beverages at least an hour before the party is over
  • Discourage "after parties" by avoiding drinking with employees at other sites after the party has ended


As an employer, you have a greater duty to protect intoxicated individuals and the public, therefore, think about how your employees will get home safely.

  • Provide alternative transportation for employees at the employer's expense to and from the party – for example, taxi cabs, taxi chits or a shuttle bus
  • Consider holding the party at a hotel, where guests may be able to stay the night. Arrange to have rooms available for employees who are unable to get home
  • If you provide alternative transportation, make arrangements well in advance and clearly communicate these in writing to all potential attendees
  • Encourage employees to leave their vehicles at home and to take advantage of the alternative transportation you are providing, especially if they will be drinking at the party. Make reminder announcements during the party about the alternative arrangements
  • However, if an inebriated individual insists on driving, try to detain them until the police can be called or, if that is not possible, call the police immediately upon the individual leaving


Many employers like to treat their employees to holiday gifts in recognition for their hard work. When giving gifts, it is important to keep in mind the tax implications, if any:

  • In short, all cash or near-cash gifts (i.e., a gift certificate) or performance-related rewards (i.e., sales targets) from the employer to the employee are taxable
  • All non-cash gifts and awards to an employee are not taxable if the total combined value is less than C$500 a year (i.e., a basket of cheese and chocolates)
  • Any item of minimal value is not taxable (i.e., employer promotional items, t-shirt, coffee mug, trophy, plaque)
  • Any taxable reward or gift must be included in the taxable income of the employee. It is the employer's responsibility for making the necessary employment income deductions.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
McCarthy Tétrault LLP
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions