Business owners who are hosting holiday parties for their employees must consider one serious factor when planning: alcohol. Employees who get drunk at a party might drive off and get into an accident. You don't want to face a lawsuit from an employee or someone they hurt, and you definitely want to keep your employees safe and sound after any work party where alcohol is served.
Excessive alcohol use contributes to more than 88,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With Christmas right around the corner, if you plan on serving alcohol at your work holiday party, read this guide to help employees stay safe and prevent drunk driving after holiday parties.
If you're going to serve alcohol at a holiday party, let employees know beforehand. This way, they can plan for transportation to and from the event.
Make it clear that the party is not about drinking. Highlight all the non-alcohol entertainment you'll have at the party, whether it's games, food, music or dancing. This can help to lessen any pressure employees may feel to drink, and make the purpose of the party one that's not about alcohol.
State consequences for employees who engage in destructive behavior because of drinking. You may want to add these to your employee handbook and outline that:
Your business is not responsible for damage an intoxicated employee causes to any property.
Your business will enforce punishments for inappropriate behavior, whether a work event is held on-site or not.
Employees are responsible for their behavior at all times.
You may even want to create a written contract to hand out to employees before they attend, where they agree that they are responsible for their actions, even when fueled by alcohol. This can discourage excessive drinking.
One way to avoid over-serving employees alcohol is to employ trained bartenders at your event and instruct them to not serve alcohol to anyone who is visibly intoxicated, or host the event at an establishment with a liquor license.
You may also consider handing out a set number of free drink tickets for the night, like one or two per person. Forcing employees to pay a cash bar for additional drinks may discourage them from drinking too much.
Serving mixed drinks, like holiday punch, or drinks that are made with various types of liquor, can make keeping track of how much you've imbibed more difficult. You may want to just serve beer or wine, so it is easier for employees and their guests to track how many drinks they've had throughout the night.
You should also serve food at any event where alcohol is served. This can help to give employees a non-drinking activity to participate in (eating), and help to prevent employees from getting drunk as quickly as they would on an empty stomach.
Ideally, you'll host a holiday party close to public transportation. If not, you could partner with a ride-sharing service to provide holiday party ride codes to employees, so they have a free ride home if they're intoxicated.
Think about how much each of your employees is worth, and what kind of hit your business will experience if you lost one due to an injury or even death. Adding free rides to your holiday budget, whether it's a party bus or ride-sharing credits, can keep everyone safe. At the very least, have the numbers of local taxi cab companies available for attendees to call.
You could also host a party near a hotel, so that attendees have a place to stay afterward without having to worry about driving home.
At any event where you'll be mixing alcohol with employees, you might want to get extra insurance to protect you. You may face the risk of being sued by a victim of an employee who drives while drunk, so covering your bases with insurance and signed contracts by party attendees may help protect you.
Also, make sure you have some party attendees who agree to be sober drivers for the night. These people can be the ones to do last-minute errand runs or trips to get an item that is running low or has run out of stock. You might also consider offering a bonus to employees who volunteer to be sober designated drivers for their coworkers, so that there are lots of sober driving options available.
At Pittman, Dutton, Hellums, Bradley & Mann, we wish you, your business and your employees a very merry holiday season. Make employee safety a priority at any event where alcohol is served, so you protect employees and your business.
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