Do you provide alcohol: beer, wine, or spirits, for employees to drink at work related events? If so, you’ve probably spent time thinking about whether this is a good practice. You want your employees to enjoy their work related events and parties, but you also want to keep your employees safe.
You need to minimize the legal liability of your organization yet not let legal worries dictate your relationship with your employees.
The Wall Street Journal recently cited a survey that found 38% of adults called had attended holiday parties at which alcohol was not served. More business events serve alcohol, however, with the alcohol provided by the business.
According to a SHRM survey, because of the improving economic climate nationally, more employers are holding office parties and more of them are serving alcohol.
Here’s how an individual employee can decide whether to drink or not at business events.
Tips for Employers about Providing Alcohol
Whether your event is a company milestone or birthday, an employee’s retirement party, or a holiday event, use these tips to plan an alcohol safe event.
- Talk about your company culture with employees emphasizing that drinking to excess is unacceptable during company events. Include alcohol usage guidance in your company code of conduct.
In my book, it is never okay to drink alcohol during a job interview. Drinking at lunch should be discouraged. And, I would drink with a client, only if the client was drinking, and my limit in a client or customer meeting is one glass of wine.
- Always serve food, such as appetizers, from the start of the event so employees are not drinking on an empty stomach.
- Offer a variety of interesting, non-alcoholic beverages, to remove the emphasis from alcohol.
- Never make drinking, or eating, for that matter, the main focus of any event. Always make entertainment, speeches, presentations, company logo items to purchase with points earned, games, dancing and / or activities for employees to participate in, the main focus of company team building events.
- Consider serving just beer and wine, no liquor. Avoid serving drinks such as punch that limit an employee’s ability to assess how much alcohol they are drinking.
- Limit the number of drinks the company provides by using drink tickets or another informal method of tracking the amount of alcohol served.
- Limit the number of hours that the bar is open. Close the bar during dinner and at a reasonable time to signal the drawing to a close and ending of the event.
- Use trained bartenders to serve alcohol; never allow employees to serve coworkers. Never provide a help-yourself beverage bar that includes alcohol.
- Make sure your bartenders are clear that they are not to serve alcohol to any person who appears to be inebriated.
- Pay for the event, the food, non-alcoholic drinks, and entertainment, but provide a cash bar for employees.
- Nix alcohol except beer and wine at company events that include children.
- Provide a late night snack buffet before employees hit the road to end a company event. It doesn’t have to be elaborate: tacos, sloppy joes, hot dogs, popcorn, cold cuts, cheese and crackers, coffee and soft drinks provide a focus other than alcoholic beverages.
- Recruit your managers and event planning committee members, in advance, to keep their eyes open for employees who may be overindulging. Offer the employee a ride home, call a cab, or make certain that a designated non-drinking driver takes the wheel.
- Pay for cabs to sit outside your event in case an employee is advised or decides that he or she cannot drive safely.
- Take a look at your company insurances to determine whether you have the appropriate coverage.
You may also want to consider asking employees to review and sign a document that provides company alcoholic beverage guidelines and that informs employees they are liable for their behavior at company sponsored events.
Alcohol can be a festive addition to a company event, but employee guidelines, company culture and customs, appropriate planning, and observation at the event will ensure that employees live to work another day. At company events, as in your workplace, employee safety is your paramount concern.