The office holiday party is the perfect time for organizations to express appreciation to their employees. Without careful planning, it can quickly turn into a holiday nightmare.

Consider these choices:

  • Will the company serve alcohol?
  • Will there be underage employees or guests?
  • Will there be a dress code?
  • Is the party on company time or at the work location?

Follow these tips to provide a fun, festive, and safe party for your employees.

Before the party:

  • Make it clear employees are not required to attend as a condition of their employment and employees’ attendance at the party is completely voluntary. Also clarify attendance at the party does not constitute working hours and employees will not receive compensation for attending.
  • Confirm service or venue providers are properly licensed.
  • Set the expectations before holiday parties through memos or meetings:
    • Discourage excessive drinking and remind employees no illegal drugs will be tolerated. Indicate what measures will be taken to ensure a safe event.
    • Remind employees the Company policies apply to events outside of normal work hours.
      • Mention your sexual harassment and dress code policies. Remind supervisors of the rules and what to do if they witness or hear of potential harassment.
      • Provide a statement to address a gift exchange. If you choose to give gifts, they should be business and family appropriate.

During the Party:

  • Make sure everyone understands (especially managers) no work is to be conducted at this event. This can be accomplished by:
    • Not conducting business during the party (unless this is paid work time). This includes speeches about business, bonuses, and work awards.
    • Holding the party at an offsite location such as a restaurant, hotel, or banquet hall.
    • Scheduling the party on weekends or after normal working hours to avoid potential wage claims.
  • Do not encourage or allow any discriminatory behavior:
    • Be sensitive to diversity in your workforce. Consider the theme, decorations, and music.
    • Do not hang mistletoe. Instead host a photo booth with fun costume items.
    • Invite family to attend, such as spouses and children.
  • If you serve alcoholic beverages:
    • Limit the number of drinks served with a voucher system, or only serve alcohol for a period of time.
    • Provide heavy appetizers or a meal.
    • Have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available.
    • Hire a separate bartender to serve alcohol. Instruct the bartender not to service anyone who is visibly drunk.

After the party:

  • Provide alternative transportation options for employees who choose to drink, either by having designated drivers or by using a transportation service (i.e., cabs, Lyft, Uber).
  • Consider providing discounted rooms if the party is held at a hotel.
  • Investigate all complaints arising from events at the party.
    • Failure to respond to any single complaint can lead to greater liability than the alleged misconduct.
    • Do not dismiss complaints associated with the Company’s holiday party without first conducting a thorough investigation.

About EvolveHR

Have any questions about this article or would like to explore how we can help your organization? Reach out to us and we’d be happy to assist.

Phone: 312-971-6332


EvolveHR provides HR consulting services, payroll administration, employee benefits administration, HRIS services, HR risk management, HR organizational development to small, midsize, and enterprise clients.