End-of-Year Parties and Company Liability

The company holiday party can be an HR Manager’s worst nightmare! It does not have to be that way. Now is the time to start planning if your company has an end-of-the-year meeting or party. Thoughtful planning and early communication of details will help the company manage risk and employee relations. Below are several key considerations to assist you.

What is the purpose of your event? Are you going to discuss business matters at your party, or is it strictly social? Is attendance mandatory? These are just a few questions that company leadership should answer during the planning stages. For example, a party/meeting that focuses on celebrating a great business year versus a religious holiday will be more inclusive and not raise any perceptions of discrimination. Discussing business achievements, and future company goals, or providing awards during the event may pressure employees to attend and could have wage and hour implications. 

When communicating plans for the event to employees, it is important to remind them about workplace policies and procedures which also apply at the party or meeting. Supervisors should be reminded that they are held to a higher standard and are expected to help monitor their team members. Company policies regarding conduct and harassment should state that they also apply to employee off-site behavior.

A significant question employers must consider when planning an event is whether or not to serve alcoholic beverages. If you decide to offer alcoholic beverages, consider these tips:

  • Ensure the company is not responsible for serving alcohol. This job should be reserved for an outside bartender or caterer.
  • Ensure the alcohol (ideally beer and wine only) is limited – e.g., two drink tickets per person.
  • Serve an assortment of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Ensure there is plenty of hearty food available.
  • Invite spouses and significant others. People tend to be more reserved with guests in attendance. 
  • Hold “last call” at least one hour before the end of the party.
  • Arrange for transportation – e.g., ride share vouchers or allowing employees to include in an expense report.
  • Coach supervisors to monitor employees for unprofessional behavior or team members who may need a ride home.

Reach out to our HR Advisors

Catapult members, for guidance on end-of-year celebrations, start the conversation today!