Every year the team at CCPartners provides our readers with tips for navigating the holiday season, and in particular holiday parties, without inviting unwanted liability. Although in-person holiday parties are largely off the table this year in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, that's certainly not to say that employers can't still ring in the festive season and thank employees for their hard work in the last year.

It's important for Employers to recognize their responsibility and control their exposures to risk during the holiday season, so we at CCPartners have compiled a list of suggested "best practices" to assist your organization in planning and hosting a safe and inclusive holiday event this year:

  1. Hold a virtual event. This is the lowest-risk options for both employers and attendees during the pandemic. Employers can plan out virtual activities for the party such as trivia, recorded messages by senior management, or hiring an entertainer such as a magician or comedian to attend.
  2. Consider whether it is feasible to hold an outdoor event while adhering to all public heath guidelines or bylaws in your region and maintaining physical distancing. If you do hold an in-person event, arrange a virtual alternative for employees who may not be comfortable attending.
  3. Arrange for employees to receive a token of appreciation whether that be food delivered to their home in time for the party, a holiday gift, or even just a holiday card with a personalized message.
  4. Employees should be reminded that even if the party is happening virtually, it is still a workplace function and they are expected to behave in a way that is not harassing, discriminatory, intimidating or otherwise inappropriate, and that your workplace violence and harassment policies apply to the Holiday Party.
  5. Be respectful of the different cultural and belief systems among your employees when planning your event.Make sure the date of your event, your menu and activities reflect your workforce's religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity.
  6. Where your workforce is culturally diverse, consider creating a holiday planning committee of representative employees to plan your event, and plan your event around the many religious holidays being celebrated around this time.
  7. Be mindful of Zoom fatigue and allow employees to opt out of your holiday event without consequence or negative connotation.
  8. If employees express a disinterest in a virtual holiday party, one option for employer is to use their holiday party budget to support a charitable cause in the community. Get employees involved in selecting the organization to make the donation more meaningful.

These tips can help employers ensure that the most wonderful time of the year isn't tarnished by human rights complaints, harassment allegations, or, most importantly, COVID-19.  If you have any questions or doubts about your company's planned holiday events, the team at CCPartners can help make sure you stay on Santa's nice list this year! 

Wishing you and your employees a safe and festive Holiday Season.

For even more Holiday Party tips and information, listen to Episode 3 of the Lawyers for Employers podcast on SoundCloud or iTunes.

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.