7 Steps to a Happy (for HR) Holiday Party

It’s the holiday season, which means your company may be hosting a party. Add some alcohol, and HR goes on high alert! With the input of Laner Muchin, our labor law partners, we’ve put together some quick tips on how to have a safe and happy holiday party that protects your company from the unexpected.

Step 1

Have someone else take responsibility for alcohol. If possible, hold the event at a restaurant, bar or, if at work, catered with bartenders. In each of these cases, the restaurant, bar, or catering company serving the alcohol is responsible for monitoring consumption, not the employer. Make sure to confirm that the venue or catering company has insurance.


Step 2

Protect the Company. Ask employees to sign a waiver acknowledging that they are consuming alcoholic beverages at their own risk and will not hold the company responsible for reckless behavior or unwelcome actions.

Step 3

Set expectations. Send a company-wide email prior to the party with a reminder about the sexual harassment and drug/alcohol policies in the employee handbook. Make sure to point out that explicit behavior will result in discipline up to and including termination.

Step 4

Minimize driving if possible. Arrange for ground transportation like a van or bus to take employees to/from the party.

officeparty3Step 5

Incentivize. Offer to pay a “safety bonus” to employees who volunteer to be designated drivers.

Step 6

Provide information for a back-up plan. Distribute a list of hotels in the area with contact information so employees can easily book a room to avoid drinking and driving.

Step 7

Purchase extra protection. If it’s going to be a large event, secure an insurance policy specifically for the event to avoid excess liability.

Implementing all seven steps may be going a bit overboard, but think about your company, your employees and the kind of holiday party you plan to throw. And then consider implementing the steps that will not only make your holiday party a safety success, but one that would make an HR professional relax and enjoy the party too.

StratEx Webinar: ACA Reporting Requirements and our ACA Module

Did you know: failure to comply with the requirements of the ACA will result in tax penalties, which will be up to $500 per 1095C not filed.

If you are not sure how your company will handle the ACA requirements, we encourage you to attend our webinar at 1pm CST on November 17th. The webinar will cover the most important and challenging parts of the ACA, as well as what our software can do to make your company’s process as friction free as possible.

The webinar will serve two purposes:

  1. To help you understand the vital sections of the ACA that need your attention. We will cover in some detail:
    • The Employer Mandate
    • ACA reporting elements for applicable large employers (ALEs)
    • The Look-back Method
  2. To show you the ACA module in eStratEx and how it can provide you the tools you need to handle all of the requirements of the ACA. This includes:
    • A tool to help you determine if your company is an applicable large employer (ALE)
    • A tool to help you apply the ‘look back’ methodology for tracking variable hour employees’ hours
    • Reporting and filing services included with the module. This includes annual reports that must be filed with the IRS, and annual statements that must be provided to employees


Date: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Time: 1:00pm- 2:00pm CST

Who should attend: Management, HR professionals

To learn more about the ACA, and how we can help you navigate the requirements with our ACA module, please join our webinar by registering here: http://bit.ly/1LihknD

6 Steps to Creating a Wellness Program for Your Company

What drives performance?

How can health add organizational
and employee value?

These are important issues employers and HR teams work to address every day. While the answers to these questions differ depending on the industry and company, organizations both large and small are using wellness programs to connect with employees, encourage healthy behavior across the organization, and instill long-term health benefits in an age of constantly-increasing healthcare costs.


A majority of employers are already offering a wellness program in some respect:

  • 79% offer wellness resources and information
  • 47% provide health screening programs and coaching
  • 42% offer smoking cessation programs (source: SHRM.org)

Organizations are recognizing the potential benefits of wellness programs, but not all programs are successful in actually engaging employees and generating positive changes. Whether you have already designed and implemented a wellness program or are just beginning to consider the benefits a wellness program can bring to your organization, it helps to know what makes a wellness program most effective for everyone involved.


Step 1

Focus your program on all employees, not just those enrolled in certain plans.

Here’s where things tend to go wrong right off the bat for employers designing wellness programs. When wellness programs only focus on employees participating in medical coverage, you may be missing a huge segment of your workforce and are sending the message that you only value the well-being of those employees for cost-cutting purposes. Instead, encourage all employees to get involved with participation-based programs, healthy initiatives in the workplace, and suitable rewards when goals are met.

Step 2

Get buy-in from all levels of management and present your program with a consistent message.

Like anything else, if managers and executives don’t actively support the program, employees aren’t likely to support it either. Additionally, inconsistent communication and an unsupportive culture won’t do anything to motivate employees. Instead, get organizational leaders involved in communicating the program to employees and leading company-wide goals. This will encourage participation across the board, because employees who understand of the strategic priorities of your organization will value their membership more and will be more likely to get involved with wellness initiatives. Engage employees in different modes of communication such as email updates and newsletters, social media, and office postings for an effective message.

Step 3

Ensure your program has a reasonable chance of improving health for participating employees.

Your program shouldn’t be too difficult for employees to complete and should be based on medical facts and research. As an employer, the place to start encouraging healthy behavior is the workplace environment. You can accomplish this through providing healthier snacks and drinks, using onsite tobacco cessation assistance, or offering onsite nutrition or yoga classes. To make it easier for employees to participate in the program across multiple locations or even remotely, try offering other convenient options such as health coaching calls, a “Lunch and Learn” webinar series, online programs, a team-based step or weight-loss challenge, or a weekly newsletter with hot topics in health, fitness, and nutrition.

Step 4

Reward employees for healthy behavior, instead of just penalizing them for unhealthy behavior.

When the motivation for employees to participate is based on avoiding a penalty instead of improving their health, incentives aren’t seen as a reward. For example, when designing a tobacco cessation plan, focus on encouraging employee’s attempts to quit instead of punishing them for being smokers. If you provide cessation assistance and reward both quitting attempts and successful tobacco cessation, you’ll be much more likely to build a culture of health within your organization, encourage participation in your program, and demonstrate your commitment to improving your employee’s well-being. Rewards can be based on completing a specific action, such as a certain number of steps per day or a timed workout, or outcome-based, such as improvement in results of annual biometric screenings.

Step 5

Find out what most motivates your employees and encourage healthy actions accordingly.

This may depend on your company’s demographics, location, or corporate culture, but a quick anonymous survey of employees can help determine which rewards will be most effective in motivating your workforce. This is an easy way to tailor your wellness program to your organization’s unique resources and needs. 36% of large employers’ and 18% of small employers’ wellness programs offer financial incentives (source: Kaiser Family Foundation). Financial rewards can be in the form of gift cards, Health Spending Account contributions, fitness center membership contributions, or many other options as you see fit. Setting company or team-wide goals encourages participation on a wider level, and team-based rewards like event tickets or healthy team meals will motivate, boost morale, and encourage teamwork in other areas of the organization.

Step 6

Of course, there are plenty of compliance issues to consider.

It’s illegal to condition plan eligibility or discriminate against employees’ health coverage or pricing on the basis of a health factor such as health status, medical condition, genetic information, or disability. Be careful when designing your plan and working with health information – just because you comply with HIPAA doesn’t mean you comply with all other laws, such as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), PPACA, ERISA, state and local laws, and federal tax code. Consider partnering with a vendor who specializes in administering wellness programs, and be sure to run any potential plan past your lawyer or legal team to ensure it is not in violation of any of these laws.


Trying to do everything at once with your wellness program will overwhelm you, not to mention your employees. Take a progressive approach to build your program and encourage long-term, healthy changes. This tactic will ensure your employees achieve their optimal level of health. Try starting with a participation-based program, consistent communications, and employee wellness committee, and work your way up to an outcomes-based plan over the course of months (or even years!). Your program should help employees identify their personal health risks and provide them with tools and skills to lower those risks.

Remember: the goal is to encourage your employees’ accountability for their own health, which will lead to more successful, long-term health outcomes. With the right wellness program, you’ll find you can better motivate your employees to take charge of their well-being, cut costs for your organization and employees, and develop a stronger, more satisfied workforce along the way.

(Additional source: Towers Watson)