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How to Limit Company Risks When Throwing a Holiday Party

By Christy Bieber – Dec 5, 2018 at 7:03AM

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Follow these five steps to make sure your office party goes off without a hitch.

Many companies host holiday parties, as celebrating the season together is a way to increase camaraderie among co-workers and boost employee morale. But while your business may want to schedule a get-together, it's important to recognize the risks.

Holiday parties create the potential for big problems, ranging from employees damaging their relationships or reputations, to much more serious issues like someone getting hurt or your organization being held legally responsible for injuries caused by a drunk-driving staff member.

To reduce the risk of something going really wrong at your company's holiday gathering, follow these five tips: 

Professionals gathered at party

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Limit alcohol consumption -- or avoid providing drinks altogether

Drunken holiday parties are a recipe for absolute disaster. Not only are intoxicated staff members at risk of doing something dumb that affects their standing in the company, but your business is also in legal jeopardy if you serve alcohol.

In many states, providing alcohol to someone who's intoxicated could potentially make you liable if that individual hurts someone. An intoxicated employee who is injured could also make a claim against your company. Even if it doesn't succeed, you'd still have a lot of legal hassle to deal with. 

To avoid all the problems that come with allowing staff members to imbibe on company time or on the company dime, just say no to serving alcohol. If you know your staff will expect drinks and you want to provide them, at least limit consumption by offering each worker only one or two drink tickets. 

2. Be smart about where your party is held

If your organization hosts a party at a club or bar, people could end up drinking even if you don't pay for alcoholic beverages. This creates the potential for all the problems described above.

Instead of putting your business at risk, try unconventional options for your holiday event. Sponsor a trip to an escape room for your whole staff, plan a family charity day, or organize a trip to a bowling alley for some friendly competition. 

3. Make the party optional

If you require attendance, or hold the party during normal business hours, or pay people to attend, there's an increased chance the party will be seen as a job-related function employees have to come to. This matters because if someone gets hurt while performing required job duties, they can make a workers' compensation claim. 

If you don't want your company to be responsible for covering any injuries sustained by staff members at a holiday party, making it an optional event during off-hours gives you grounds to argue that your company isn't liable for anything that goes wrong. 

4. Put someone in charge of safety

Have at least one attendee at the party who's in charge of making sure no staff members do anything dangerous. Your company's appointed safety monitor can watch for signs that a drunk person may drive home, and can step in if the celebrating seems to be getting out of hand.

Whoever is in charge of safety can also check the premises for hazards (like spilled drinks that could lead to a slip and fall) and can make sure everyone has left the party venue at the end of the event -- so no drunk employee ends up locked in a coat closet all night. 

5. Establish expectations

Make clear to employees in advance that the event is a chance to have fun, but not go wild. A simple email reminding staff members that professional decorum is expected can go a long way. 

Company leaders should also set an example at the event with their own behavior, and at least one member of the senior staff should be around until the end so staff members don't feel too free to let their hair down and do something they -- and the company -- will come to regret. 

Holiday events should be fun -- but need to be safe, too

A focus on safety needn't dampen excitement about your holiday party. Plan some games or a Secret Santa for everyone to take part in, make sure the food is great, and set up a safe environment where everyone on the team can socialize responsibly. You'll be glad you made the effort to provide a fun and safe party environment when the event goes off without a hitch. 

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