With a little over a month left until Christmas, we have officially entered ‘holiday season.’ And, that means company holiday-party time. 

And while the idea behind holiday parties is to celebrate the festive season and reward employees with an opportunity to kick back and enjoy themselves, such events can be a breeding ground for problems – problems that can even land a company in legal trouble. 

Sexual harassment, fights between co-workers and employees driving home drunk are among the list of potential liabilities that scare businesses into considering cancelling the annual holiday party all together. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key to a successful – and liability-free – party is all in the planning.  

Limit drinking or have a plan B 

Drinking is one of the biggest liabilities at holiday parties. Alcohol loosens inhibitions, which can lead to party antics and inappropriate behaviour. But most importantly, drinking can lead to driving impaired.  Here are a few suggestions on how to put a lid on the drinking issue:

  • Provide food and entertainment so that drinking doesn’t become the main event.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol guests are allowed to drink by providing drink tickets or only opening the bar for a certain amount of time.
  • Hold the party at a hotel and offer discounted rooms so employees can stay the night.
  • Hand out cab chits at the company’s expense to make sure no one drives home drunk. 

To get away from the alcohol issue all together, some smaller businesses move holiday parties to a holiday lunch. Because, although employees may still have a beer or a glass of wine, they are far less likely to over-consume at lunchtime.  

Leave the office 

As well, trying to save money by hosting the party in the office often creates more problems than it’s worth. To ensure that no one wanders into offices or areas they don’t typically have access to, everything has to be locked down and put away. In the office, there’s the potential for confidential papers to be seen, lewd office behaviour (think photocopiers and body parts) or inappropriate rendezvous’ behind closed doors. In a restaurant or hotel conference space, these risks basically disappear. 

Once you’ve gotten over your fear of the potential liabilities, remember that throwing a holiday party is supposed to be a celebration. Don’t spend much time talking about the company’s performance and future plans – the party isn’t an excuse to double up on a staff meeting. It’s about thanking employees for their hard work; so relax and enjoy yourself.

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