With the festive season now in full swing, many workplaces are preparing to host holiday events. While these events present a great opportunity for co-workers to engage socially and celebrate another successful year, they can unfortunately expose risks and potential liabilities for employers. We want to take this opportunity to remind employers about some of these potential risks, and best practices for limiting risk of liability.
Hosting a work-sanctioned holiday party can open employers up to potential liabilities such as compensation claims for injuries occurring as a result of incidents at the party, and civil liability as a social host.
While we don’t want to discourage having fun, employers should be cognizant of their ongoing safety and legal liabilities in planning holiday festivities. Some tips that remain just as applicable now as in past years include the following:
- Where possible, host holiday parties off-site, at non-work locations.
- Avoid offering an “open bar” where party guests serve themselves. Use professionally-staffed bars instead, with servers who have been trained to monitor signs of intoxication and know not to over-serve.
- Do your best to regulate alcohol consumption through other means, such as limiting the number of drink tickets per guest, and providing ample food and non-alcoholic beverage options.
- Remind employees of their personal responsibility not to drink and drive. Encourage all employees to proactively make plans for a safe ride to and from your event.
- Provide taxi vouchers to party guests and communicate to attendees that the employer will reimburse travel costs for a safe ride home through transit, ride-share apps or other means. Ensure your employees are informed of various safe transportation options.
- Put safeguards in place on the night of your event to identify and support employees who may need assistance coordinating a safe ride home.
- Remind employees that the policies and expectations of their workplace, such as those with respect to bullying, harassment, respectful workplace and discrimination continue to apply at all work-sanctioned social events, including the holiday party. Ensure employees know that any inappropriate behaviours that would not be permitted in the workplace are also not permitted at the holiday party.
While we anticipate that many employers will already be aware of these tips and best practices, a little holiday “refreshment” is never a bad thing!
Take care and Happy Holidays from the team at Harris & Company LLP.