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How to Plan
Safe & Successful
Holiday Parties

How to Plan Safe & Successful Holiday Parties

With a small team, you might think celebrating the holidays is as simple as a dinner out. However, employers have responsibilities and potential liabilities to keep in mind to avoid having the festive season marred by an unfortunate incident.

Serving alcohol presents the biggest risk for most companies because you are liable for the actions of an employee who leaves the party after having consumed alcohol.1

Here are some ways to help manage the risks and keep your staff safe.2

  • Use drink tickets to limit consumption.
  • Hold the party in a licensed bar or restaurant with properly trained servers who can monitor consumption.
  • Verify the licenses of the venues you choose, or if you are hosting the party in the office, make sure you apply for a license and hire someone to serve drinks in order to control consumption.
  • Serve food whenever there is alcohol … it might sound obvious, but a little food can slow down the drinking.
  • Alcohol lowers inhibitions and someone needs to keep a clear head so limit personal consumption and watch for inappropriate behaviour or potential harassment.
  • Provide taxi chits for a safe ride home.
  • Allow employees to bring a guest or spouse. This can also help limit over-consumption and inappropriate behaviour.

Over-indulgence isn’t the only challenge facing employers so here are some extra considerations for successful holiday party planning.

  • Attendance: 25.8% of employers3 say getting employees to come to holiday events is their greatest challenge. Involve team members in planning to get a better turn out.
  • Think outside the box: Go beyond parties or dinners to plan an activity such as laser tag, go-carting or sleigh rides. Might generate more interest than a sit-down dinner or lunch.
  • Be inclusive: Keep cultural diversity in mind while planning your event since every culture celebrates at different times and in different ways.
  • Consider the time: Holding the event during office hours might generate better attendance and interest.
  • Budget and taxes: Social events do present tax issues. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says holiday parties paid for by an employer can be considered a taxable benefit if the cost is more than $100 per person4. Talk to your accountant to avoid tax surprises.

How to Plan Safe & Successful Holiday Parties (PDF version)

The information contained in this HR Tip Sheet is summary in nature and is intended to provide general guidance. It should not be viewed as a replacement for legal or professional advice.

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