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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Parties
November 22, 2013
Author(s): Dianne D. Rideout

It is that time of year again when workplaces begin celebrating the holiday season. When planning holiday events for employees, employers should consider implementing strategies to address the potential health and safety risks associated with these events. An employer may be held liable if, during an office party, an employee becomes intoxicated and sustains injuries or causes injury to others. In addition, an intoxicated employee’s behaviour may give rise to complaints of harassment by others who are in attendance at the holiday event.

When planning holiday events, consider the following strategies for promoting employee safety and minimizing employer liability:

  • Consider hosting an alcohol free event. If alcohol is provided, do not provide an open or unsupervised bar.
  • Before the event, inform employees that the employer will not tolerate drinking and driving and notify employees of the transportation arrangements the employer has made to help employees get home safely.
  • Take steps to regulate alcohol consumption. The employer may wish to consider hosting an alcohol free event. Alternatively, if alcohol will be provided, limit the number of drinks each person is able to obtain and hire professional alcohol servers who are trained to monitor and regulate alcohol consumption.
  • Ensure non-alcoholic beverages and food are available.
  • Select an event location that is close to public transit so that employees have an alternative to driving to and from the party.
  • Provide employees with taxi vouchers to enable them to get home safely.
  • Intervene to ensure that intoxicated employees do not drive.  This may involve removing an employee’s car keys, driving an employee to his or her home, and notifying the police if the employee refuses to cooperate and insists on driving.

We wish you and your employees a safe holiday season.