Employers Less Likely to Foot the Bill for Holiday Parties

December 7, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - BNA's annual Year-End Holiday Practices survey finds organizations sponsoring companywide parties will be somewhat less likely this year to pick up the full cost.

Among employers planning to sponsor companywide celebrations in 2011, 85% will pay the full cost of the party—down from the 89% that opted to pay the entire bill in 2009 and 2010, and the 92% that sprang for the full bill in 2008. Median per-employee expenditure for companywide parties will be $41, little changed from the $42 per employee spent last year.  

The survey also found more leave and gift-giving by employers, but little change in sponsorship of holiday parties, BNA said.  

Based on responses from 392 human resources and employee relations executives, 78% of employers will sponsor one or more year-end events in 2011, including luncheons, dinners, departmental gatherings and companywide parties—little changed from 2010 (76%). Employer sponsorship of companywide parties also has changed little from 2010 (58%) to 2011 (56%).  

Forty-six percent of surveyed employers will give their workers some type of year-end holiday gift or bonus, up from 41% of employers in 2010 and 33% in 2009. Gift giving is at a five-year high, rebounding from the low established in 2009.  

Holiday leave will be more generous this year than last. With Christmas and New Year’s Day each falling on a Sunday, 42% of employers will grant workers three or more days off with pay. In contrast, 36% granted three or more days paid leave during the 2010-2011 holiday season.  

Manufacturers and smaller organizations typically will have more generous holiday leave policies. Manufacturing companies (70%) are much more likely than nonmanufacturing companies (37%) or non-business concerns (31%) to give employees three or more days of paid vacation. Among employers with fewer than 1,000 workers, 44% will provide three or more paid holidays, compared with 32% of larger employers.

BNA's annual survey also found the following: 

  • Organizations are about as likely as they were last year to allow non-employees access to companywide parties. Half of surveyed employers (50%) will open up their companywide parties to spouses or other guests, little changed from the 52% of employers that permitted spouses or other guests to attend these parties in 2010.
  • Availability of alcoholic beverages at year-end parties will be little changed from last year, although there has been a sharp decline in the availability of spirits at these parties since 2008. Fifty-five percent of surveyed employers will be serving alcoholic beverages at their parties in 2011, essentially unchanged from the 56% that made alcohol available in 2010. Nevertheless, there has been a clear declining trend since 2008, when nearly two-thirds of employers (65%) served alcohol at their year-end bashes. 
  • Some organizations will also sponsor other year-end celebrations. In addition to companywide holiday parties, 37% of employers will sponsor events at the unit or department level (essentially unchanged from 36% in 2010), and 35% will host informal holiday parties—sponsored and funded by employees—to be held on company time (down from 39% the previous year). 
  • Participation in charitable activities will be up slightly. Slightly more than two-thirds of surveyed employers (67%) plan to sponsor or participate in one or more charitable activities in 2011, up 3 percentage points from 2010 but a significant increase from 2009 levels (59%). Consistent with findings in previous years, toy collections for needy children (41%) and food collections (40%) are the top two charitable activities in which organizations will engage. Nearly three in 10 organizations (28%) will “adopt” families for charitable activities through social service agencies or schools.