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Workplace policies to avoid the holiday party hangover


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With the holiday season fast approaching, employers are consistently reminded of the additional risks and liabilities which may result from an employer-sponsored holiday event. Nevertheless, holiday parties and events are often considered to be an essential “benefit” expected by employees.

In planning such events, therefore, employers would be well-advised to ensure that they have policies in place to deal with challenging situations which may arise in the course of an employer-sponsored social event, notably:

Alcohol: much has been published recently reminding employers of the additional risk of liability that arises when an employer serves alcohol at an employer social event. In light of such liabilities employers should take care to have an “Alcohol in the workplace” policy outlining procedures to be employed to minimize such risk.

Conduct and behaviour: a social atmosphere (especially one which includes alcohol) may induce some employees to behave in a manner which is not acceptable in a workplace. This may include excessive drinking, rude or obnoxious comments to co-workers or managers, overt sexual behaviour, or harassment. Employers should have a “Conduct and behaviour” policy to address such conduct, including such conduct which is “off-duty” but still work-related.

Workplace harassment: as noted above, employer social functions may provide the opportunity for harassment of employees by managers or other employees, sexual or otherwise. Employers should ensure that their workplace harassment policies include such events.

Health and safety: consider the employer’s general duty to ensure the health and safety of employees and workers’ compensation considerations for injuries arising out of or in the course of employment. Does your health and safety policy and procedures extend to employer-sponsored events? Make sure they do.

For more compliance information and best practices on the above issues and sample policies, consult the Employee Relations and Health and Safety chapters in the Human Resources PolicyPro, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba & Saskatchewan, and Atlantic editions, published by First Reference Inc.

Be prepared and make sure you have a safe holiday event with your employees.

Michele Glassford
Editor of Human Resources PolicyPro
published by First Reference Inc.

Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more

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