Spring is in the air and summer is coming soon. That means many companies are planning company picnics, barbecues, and outings to celebrate the season. The good news is that these events are a great opportunity to thank employees for hard work and to encourage them to mingle outside of the normal work setting. The less fun news is that it’s important to ensure they happen responsibly because there can be risk involved. With thoughtful planning and communication, you can have sunny summer events.
Our HR consultants have broken it down into Do’s and Don’ts for you:
Follow your stated employee policies. Keep in mind that picnics, parties, or outings are employer-sponsored, so the company may be responsible for whatever happens at the event and sometimes for events that occur after the party. Be sure to emphasize that all guidelines will apply to the event even if it is off-site or after work hours.
Consider taking steps to limit alcohol consumption. If you decide that alcohol will be served and the event is off-site and after hours, provide plenty of food rich in carbs and protein to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. You can also have a cash bar, limit the number of drink tickets, or close the bar after a specified amount of time to deter over-consumption.
Make sure your employees get home safely. Offer incentives to employees who volunteer to be designated drivers or arrange transportation and accommodations. Thinking ahead about transportation demonstrates responsibility on the employer’s part, as well as potentially minimizing the company’s liability if an employee causes an accident while driving under the influence.
Determine how to handle pay issues in advance of the event. It’s not required to pay employees that voluntarily attend an event after hours. However, nonexempt employees need to be compensated if they are working the event or if attendance is mandatory. If the event is held during regular work hours, then all employees would be paid for attending the party.
Make it a family affair. Experts suggest that employee behavior actually improves at company events when spouses or partners and children are present. If your budget allows, it can be a giant gesture to include the entire family in the fun and one that many employees appreciate. Summer picnics especially lend themselves to games and activities suitable for children. Be sure to review your liability coverage with your broker first.
Don’t allow employees to get away with any bad behavior. Follow up on any complaints associated with the event and conduct a thorough investigation. Racial or sexual jokes, gossiping about office relationships, and unwelcome touching should not be permitted during the event just as they are not allowed in the office.
Don’t make your event work related to avoid liability for any injuries. Typically, workers’ compensation does not apply if the injury is “incurred in the pursuit of an activity, the major purpose of which is social or recreational.” If the carrier determines that the company event was truly voluntary and not related to work, then the carrier would most likely deny the claim.
Don’t penalize employees who choose not to attend. The message may be misinterpreted and could create employee relations concerns.
Don’t serve alcohol if your policies do not permit drinking either on your company’s premises or during work hours and you plan to have the event at the office as a part of the workday. Remind your supervisors to set a good example, keep an eye out for employee behavior that needs managing, and to deter employees from any informal gathering after the event that gets the alcohol flowing.
Don’t forget to reach out to your broker if you have any questions or concerns regarding insurance liability risks. Summer is a super time to enjoy the weather and give employees some well-deserved fun. Events like picnics, trips to the ballpark or barbecues sustain a positive work culture, but it’s important to be aware of potential issues that could arise and to plan accordingly. We’re here to help you along the way, as are your brokers, so be sure to leverage all your resources.
Originally published on ThinkHR, June 2017