It’s that time of year when everyone’s minds turn toward celebration. Enter the annual company holiday party.
In theory, this sounds harmless enough: good times, morale-boosting and thanking employees for their efforts throughout the year. But add alcohol to the mix and it has the potential for disaster.
While it would be nice to enjoy the festivities and pretend liability issues aren’t a factor, the fact is they are.
Whether you’re in charge of hosting the event for your office or you’re an event planner hired to produce the big annual company bash, below are a few of the basics to keep in mind to strike a balance between mitigating unfortunate situations while ensuring the employees have a good time.
The decision to offer alcohol and how much can vary greatly depending on the company and its culture. If alcohol is part of the event, restricting alcoholic options available to the employees is always a good rule of thumb. There are many ways you can go here because the option for modified service is limited only by your imagination. Below are some ideas for you to consider:
- Provide beer and wine but no spirits or cocktails. Mixed drinks make it more difficult for the person to calculate how much they have consumed which puts them at greater risk of overindulgence.
- If a dinner is part of your event, serve wine only and have the alcohol purchase for the remainder of the event be the responsibility of the employee. There tends to be less alcohol consumed overall when individuals are paying for it out of pocket.
- The use of tracking methods, such as a drink voucher system, is a great way to monitor the liquor consumption at your event.
- If an open bar is provided, choose specific times to close the bar such as meal service, speeches or during entertainment. You can limit service to only wine at that time.
- Always be sure to include an appealing selection of non-alcoholic drinks to entice partygoers.
If there is alcohol being served at the company holiday party, food must also be served. While a full-service dinner is certainly not required, ample appetizers should be passed through the duration of alcohol service so that partygoers are not drinking on empty stomachs.
Professional bartenders and servers who have the appropriate qualifications are trained to discern situations that may end up with unfavorable consequences for all concerned. Let’s say an attendee is inebriated or a minor is attempting to access alcohol. Each situation could have potentially negative ramifications, both for the individual involved and for the company. A professional is skilled in dealing with such situations with tact and legal appropriateness.
Keep It Balanced
If the company party is being held during the evening and it is larger in scale, it’s a great idea to provide the employees with something to eat a few hours before they leave the event. Nothing big mind you, just enough to give them a focus point other than the bar and to get something else in their stomachs besides alcohol. Many people unconsciously hold a drink while at an event – eating gives them something else to do with their hands.
Close Down Early
There’s no need to keep the bar open until the last man is standing. Announce last call one hour before your event is set to come to a close. At this point, it will not interfere with anyone’s enjoyment of the festivities and shows their safety is paramount. This gives a buffer period for those who may have indulged too much.
Examine your company’s insurances to discover whether your policy allows for the service of alcohol at company events or whether you will need to take out an insurance rider for the occasion.
Time and Place
It’s a good practice to hold the company party somewhere other than at the place of business and during hours for which employees are usually paid. Also, consider having a daytime event. Rather than a Friday night holiday work party, a late lunch during a Saturday afternoon could be an option. While this won’t exempt a company from liability, it will help to mitigate problematic situations resulting from alcohol intake.
Designate particular people to keep an eye out for employees who may have overindulged. These people can be responsible for ensuring the safe transport of these employees back to their homes. This is easily done by ensuring cabs are available outside the event or even providing a free shuttle service for employees.
Check The Law
Research federal and state laws regarding a company’s liability when it comes to the alcohol consumption of its employees.
Alcohol service is a normal part of a celebration in our society. With a few wise and imaginative choices, it can enhance, rather than detract, from the holiday festivities.
As with any other aspect of event planning, it is the amount of advance preparation and establishment of safeguards that will determine its success.