Colleagues celebrating the holidays It’s that time of year again: time for crowded shopping malls, doorways adorned with mistletoe– and planning the annual company holiday party. While party planning might seem like a fun task and break from the monotony of everyday office activities, it can actually be a stressful experience for human resources staff. After all, employers have responsibilities– and potential liabilities– when it comes to hosting an office holiday party. How can you make sure your company’s festive gathering isn’t spoiled by an unfortunate or illegal incident? Consider these party planning tips:

Limit alcohol consumption. Many holiday party blunders begin with excessive alcohol consumption. Not only do you have to worry about the actions of your employees whose inhibitions are wildly lowered while at the office party, but you are also responsible for the actions of your intoxicated employees after they leave the party. You can avoid such liability by issuing “drink tickets”– and ensuring that each employee gets no more than two of these tickets. For additional safety precautions, you can arrange to have the bar close at least an hour before the party is over.

Offer festive non-alcoholic beverages. Not everyone drinks alcohol or will feel comfortable consuming it during a work party. Thankfully, there are plenty of creative and delicious non-alcoholic holiday beverages that anyone can enjoy without worrying about drinking too much and finding a safe ride home. Avoid the risks of alcohol consumption at your party by getting rid of it completely and offering a fun alternative.

Be inclusive. Consider the cultural diversity of your staff when planning a holiday party. The purpose of an office holiday party is typically to foster a sense of togetherness and give your employees a morale boost. Thus, you should either make sure all religious symbolism is equally represented at your party, or alternatively, steer the focus of the holiday party away from religion altogether.

Be wary of making attendance mandatory. Most employees will want to come to the company holiday party because, well, it’s a party! However, requiring that your employees attend can put your company in a sticky situation. If you make attendance mandatory, you’ll likely have to pay them to be there, in accordance with most wage and hour laws. For your non-exempt employees, this might mean overtime pay to party.

You might even want to consider hosting the holiday party during office hours, to break up the monotony of the day and save the costs of hosting it at an alternative venue. The office is probably already decorated and most employees are in attendance.

Put away the mistletoe. Sure, it might seem like a harmless decorative item, but it’s not worth the potential uncomfortable situations it might cause. You want to avoid having Bob from the accounting department decide that the mistletoe is the perfect excuse for stealing a kiss from Cathy in sales. In short, don’t set the stage for a potential harassment issue.

There are many ways to make your office holiday party both memorable and HR approved.

For more information on planning a holiday office party in accordance with HR policies, please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at or 800-367-8367.

Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.