The company holiday party can be a fun way to celebrate a year of hard work with your employees. It's typically a time to treat your employees to a good time and show appreciation for their contributions. But it can also open the door to your company dealing with issues long after the party ends and starting the new year on a not so high note. Without taking proper actions before the party, mayhem in the form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, drunk driving or any other manner of undesirable behavior you can imagine, can rear it's ugly head.
So while you're choosing the venue and caterer for the holiday party, take some time to think about how you can mitigate the most common risks of bad behavior from happening at your event. With a little pre-planning you can reduce or eliminate the risks of employees driving home drunk and employees being sexually harassed while at your event. While both of these are things we would never want to happen, actions to prevent them from happening are simple and can be done in advance by any employer. Here's some actions you can take as you're finalizing plans for the company holiday party to keep everyone safe, comfortable and out of trouble.
Have a Drink Limit
Will there be alcohol at the holiday party? If so your business could be held responsible if your employees drive home drunk. This is called vicarious liability.
When deciding to serve alcoholic beverages at the holiday party, there are typically two options. You can decide to have an open bar which will allow employees to have an unlimited amount of drinks on the company tab. Or there is the option of a drink limit that allows a certain number of drinks that will be paid for by the company. Any additional drinks over the set "free" limit will be paid for by the employee.
While having an unlimited bar may be fun and appealing to employees (who doesn't like a free drink), it also increases the risk that they will over indulge on those free drinks, putting them in a situation where they may drive home drunk.
Setting a drink limit will naturally decrease the odds of employees becoming intoxicated. They surely will enjoy the free drinks, but having to pay for more drinks is a deterrent to having one too many. In addition to keeping employees safe, having a reasonable drink limit (2 drinks or so) will also keep party expenses in check.
Just Say NO to Alcohol Period
It's worth mentioning that there is an option to simply not have alcohol at all at the company holiday party. This would mean requesting that your venue not serve liquor to attendees period, whether the employee pays out of their own pocket or not. Alcohol can make even the most quiet employee, make reckless and poor (also known as dumb) decisions . Instead have mock-tails, a festive punch, tea and plenty of soft drinks. There are plenty of beverage choices for a celebratory occasion other than alcohol. By banning the booze you can keep everyone sober and in a mental state where they are better able to be well behaved. If they still choose to do something that lands them in hot water, they can't blame it on having too much to drink.
Give Them a Safe Way to Get Home
Even if you take every precaution, there is always that one employee that will have too much to drink anyway. If you have any concerns at all that an employee is intoxicated, don't let them drive home. Before your event make a plan on how your company will offer employees safe rides home if they have too much too drink or are just too tired to drive because they stayed up way past their bedtime.
Ride sharing services like Uber make is super easy to plan ahead for safe rides home. In advance of the event, set up an Uber for Business account. Uber is typically less expensive and easier to request a ride than traditional taxi services. Another perk is that you will have verifiable proof (if ever needed) that your company made sure that eh employee got home safely. The Uber for Business account will not only make it easy for you arrange rides for employees that can't drive home, you can use the account to manage other employee travel like to the airport and work events. It can also be used to send rides to pick up clients or applicants for interviews.
Make Sure Your Employees Know That The Employee Handbook Is Still In Effect
Just because employees away from the work site and off the clock, doesn't mean that the employee handbook is thrown out the window. The opposite is quite true. Your employee handbook and rules of conduct still apply even though employees aren't at their normal work site and it's a company party. Before your event is a good time to remind employees of your expectations of behaviors and company polices.Specifically, give your employees a refresher a your company sexual harassment policy, code of conduct and general expectations of how they should behave. The company Christmas party is not the time to flirt with your co-workers, ask them out for dates or make sexual advances. Employees should be well aware that if their conduct does not meet these expectations or violates any of your company policies, then they will be disciplined according to your company guidelines.
Have Responsible Supervisors, Supervise the Party
This isn't the high school prom, but having proper supervision at the company holiday party can stop many inappropriate actions before they start. Employees will be less likely to do something like feel up an employee or make lewd jokes when they see management actively engaging and observing what's happening. Having visible management supervise the activities of the event, will also give employees who feel uncomfortable, experience something or see something an immediate way to report the problem. Managers and supervisors should be informed of their responsibility to supervise the party before hand. You'll also want to make sure they are empowered to take immediate disciplinary action on any employee whether that employee directly reports to them or not.
What you do before the company holiday party can greatly impact what happens during the company holiday party. Don't think that your employees never do anything that would cause any problems. We'd all like to think that our employees would never drive home drunk or sexually harass their co-worker, but it happens every day. Your ultimate responsibility as an employer when you decide to host a holiday party is to ensure a safe experience for all employees. These actions are great first steps, what others do you feel are appropriate for your business? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.
Before you leave, request your copy of The Mayhem Free Christmas Party Checklist. It's a free resource with tips and actions to help your business have a fun, safe and issue free event. Tell me where I send your checklist below.
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