It may be hard to believe that the holiday season will soon be here, but it soon will be that time of year once again. With that thought in mind, many companies will be considering the planning of the end of year parties, not only when and where, but also on what steps to take to ensure a pain-free event. These party days can create many employment issues and even liability on the employer may arise due to the need to ensure a safe and sane party atmosphere.

Gala Event is Still “Employment-Related”

There is little doubt that a social event conducted during off-hours and not on company premises will be viewed legally as an extension of the employment relationship, no matter what waivers or policies may exist. If it is the objective of the employer to avoid all such painful planning issues and discard liability completely, the best idea would be ot have no party at all.

Alcohol Issues

The employer will be worried about their liability as the “host” of an event, given the bad things that follow when alcohol has been consumed excessively. The dangers of inebriated behaviour need no explanation. These issues are not confined to the physical premises of the event but will follow once the party-goers leave for new destinations, particularly if they opt to drive a vehicle.

Preventive Steps

The company will be wise to set a time period at which alcohol pouring is done and also provide a fixed number of drink tickets per person. A professionally trained bartender team should be the sole provider of drinks.

Arranging for taxis, Ubers or other ride-sharing services would be a prudent step and these should be mandated for all persons in attendance.

Reminder to Employees in Advance

Does it seem like overkill to insist that all persons in attendance are reminded in advance of the company policies on standards of behaviour? Perhaps so, but a reminder shortly before an event can lead to no harm. It is clear, as noted, that a workplace party is an employment event and that the employer has a duty to maintain a safe and secure environment. At least one person should be designated as the sober source for monitoring this behaviour.

Obviously, there should be non-alcoholic drink options provided at any gathering.

Yes, cannabis use is indeed street legal in Canada, but the employer still has the right to prohibit its use in a work context. That said, medical use will be allowed with the usual advance medical requirements and controls in place comparable to the workplace. The eligible user should not be allowed to smoke cannabis openly.

Human Rights Issues

The event should be non-denominational. It should not be a Christmas party or a Diwali celebration or a Hanukkah event. You can call it whatever you wish when at your home, but for a company-sponsored event, these are the rules.

Is This Too Much?

This does seem like a lot of work to allow for a happy celebration of the season and one another. Is it better to offer each employee a bonus and let them party with co-workers on their own time as they determine? You be the judge. Hopefully, a happy compromise can be found.

Preparation is always key but getting advice is step one,  no matter which side you may be on. It is most important to understand all aspects of employee and employer obligations when it comes to work-related social gatherings. Contact the offices of Toronto employment and labour lawyers Mallins Law. We regularly advise employees and employers on legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 647-792-0310 to schedule a consultation.