Avoiding Company Summer Picnic BBQ Falls – Employee Rights/Labour Relations

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After two (or more) years of businesses being forced to cancel the age-old tradition of the company’s summer picnic and barbecue due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions, businesses and their employees are looking forward to getting outside in summer weather and getting together for water balloon fights and three-legged races. And while such celebrations are a welcome addition to the summer schedule, employers would be wise to keep the following tips in mind to ensure a safe, fun, and low-risk (legally speaking) event.

  1. Encourage, but don’t demand, attendance.This is very important advice for three reasons. If attendance is required: (1) non-exempt employees shall be compensated for time spent attending the event; (2) any injury will be treated as a workplace injury and covered as a workers’ compensation injury; and (3) the celebration may violate anti-discrimination and reasonable accommodation laws.

  2. Limit (or even ban) the consumption of alcohol.This is well-established advice, but one worth repeating, for the obvious reason that overconsumption of alcohol, especially when people are outdoors in direct sunlight and may not have not eaten a full meal, leads to unprofessional and potentially problematic behavior. Limiting the amount of alcohol consumed can prevent unnecessary behavior problems. Offering drink tickets and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages can help limit alcohol consumption, as can planning a party during the day and inviting family.

  3. Remind employees that fun is great, within reason. It is important to remind employees that all workplace rules relating to conduct apply in full to any business meeting, especially rules relating to harassment, discrimination and professional interactions, and that employees will be disciplined for violating workplace rules at the company event. The tone of such communication can be light and fun, but sending a reminder with the invitations and just before the event is very important.

  4. Identify a dress code. While important for all corporate gatherings, identifying a dress code for summer events, especially where there may be a pool, is especially crucial. Sending out a specific set of expected dress guidelines can serve not only to avoid dress faux pas and inappropriate attire, but can also help employees feel comfortable with what they are wearing.

  5. Remind managers to lead by example. Sending reminder notes regarding alcohol consumption and professional action does not go that far. The best way to ensure employees are having fun responsibly is for company leaders to set the right tone – have fun, but keep in mind it’s still an event professional.

  6. Consider inviting family. Much like ensuring company leaders lead by example, one of the best ways to ensure employees maintain an appropriate level of decorum is to invite spouses, loved ones, and even children. , which can help keep tabs on employees. Inviting families also encourages more employees to participate because they don’t have to be away from their families during their free time, and it gives employees something other than work to talk about.

  7. Respond quickly to any issues that arise. If the above reminders and guidelines are not followed, be sure to encourage employees to raise any concerns that arise with the appropriate personnel and then promptly follow up and resolve any concerns raised.

  8. Keep in mind all COVID-19 related restrictions.Although things are returning to a new normal when it comes to COVID-19, the last thing employers want is for their fun event to become a superspreader. So make sure that all appropriate (and legally required) restrictions related to COVID-19 are in place.

  9. And to top it all, ENJOY!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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