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The Perks of Holiday Parties: How They’re Still an Asset to Your Company | Maryland Benefit Advisors


The end of the year is upon us and a majority of companies celebrate with an end-of-year/holiday party.  Although the trend of holiday parties has diminished in recent years, it’s still a good idea to commemorate the year with an office perk like a fun, festive party.


  • Holiday staff parties are a perfect way to thank your employees for a great year. All employees want to feel appreciated and valued. What better way to serve this purpose, than with an end of the year office celebration. Hosting a night out to honor your employees during a festive time of year boosts morale. And if done right, your party can jump start the new year with refreshed, productive employees.
  • End-of-year celebrations allow employees to come together outside of their own team. The average American will spend 90,000 hours (45 years) of their life at work. Unless you have a very small office, most employees only engage in relationships within their department. When employees have a chance to mingle outside of their regular 9 to 5 day, they’ll build and cultivate relationships across different teams within the organization; creating a more loyal, cohesive and motivated culture.
  • Seasonal parties can provide employers insight on those who work for them. Spending the evening with your employees in a more casual and relaxed atmosphere may reveal talents and ideas you may not have otherwise seen during traditional work hours.


Regardless of office size, if planned right, employers can make a holiday party pop, no matter your budget. Whether this is your first go at an end-of-year celebration for your employees, or you host one every year, keep a few things in mind:

  • Plan early. Establish a steering committee to generate ideas for your holiday party. Allow the committee to involve all employees early on in the process. Utilize voting tools like Survey Monkey or Outlook to compile employee votes. This engages not only your entire workforce, but serves you as well when tailoring your party to fit your culture.
  • Create set activities. Engaging employees in some type of organized activity not only eases any social anxiety for them and their guests, it cultivates memories and allows colleagues to get to know each other. Consider a “Casino Night”, a photo booth (or two if your company can justify to size), an escape room outing—anything that will kick the night off with ease.
  • Incorporate entertainment during the dinner. Have team leads or management members come up with fun awards that emphasize character traits, strengths, and talents others may not know of. This is a great way to create cohesiveness, build relationships, and have your employees enjoy a good laugh at dinner.
  • Offer fun door prizes every 15 minutes or so. Prizes don’t have to be expensive to have an impact on employees, just relevant to them. However, with the right planning you may be able to throw in a raffle of larger gift items as well. Just keep in the specific tax rules when it relates to gift-giving. Gift cards associated with a specific dollar amount available to use at any establishment, and larger ticket items, can be subject to your employees having to claim income on them and pay the tax.
  • Make the dress code inclusive of everyone. Employees should not feel a financial pinch to attend a holiday office party. Establish a dress code that fits your culture, not the other way around.


According to the Society of Human Resource Management, statistics show in recent years only 65% of employers have offered holiday parties—down from 72% five years ago. Consider the following tips when hosting your next year-end celebration.

  • Keep it light. Eliminate itineraries and board-room like structure. Choose to separate productivity/award celebrations and upcoming year projections from your holiday party.
  • Invite spouses and significant others to attend the party. Employees spend a majority of their week with their colleagues. Giving employees this option is a great way to show you value who they spend their time with outside of work.
  • Allow employees to leave early on a work day to give them time to get ready and pick up who is attending the party with them.
  • Show how you value your employees by chatting with them and meeting their guests.
  • Provide comfortable seating areas where employees can rest, eat and talk. Position these in main action areas so no one feels anti-social for taking a seat somewhere.
  • Consider tying in employees that work in different locations. Have a slideshow running throughout the night on what events other office locations have done throughout the year.
  • Create low-key conversation starters and get people to chat it up. This is valuable especially for those that are new to the company and guests of your employees. Incorporate trivia questions into the décor and table settings. Get them to engage by tying in a prize.
  • Keep the tastes and comfort level of your employees in mind. Include a variety of menu items that fit dietary restrictions. Not all employees drink alcohol and not all employees eat meat.
  • Limit alcohol to a 2 ticket system per guest. Opt for a cash bar after that to reduce liability.
  • Provide access to accommodations or coordinate transportation like Uber or Lyft to get your employees somewhere safely after the party if they choose to drink.

Ultimately, holiday parties can still be a value-add for your employees if done the right way. Feel free to change it up from year to year so these parties don’t get stale and continue to fit to your company’s culture. Contemplate new venues, ideas and activities and change up your steering committee to keep these parties fresh. Employees are more likely to enjoy themselves at an event that fits with their lifestyle, so don’t be afraid to get creative!




Employer Exchange Notices–No Changes Needed | Maryland Benefit Advisors

Employers are required to give all new hires a Notice of Marketplace Coverage Options – often referred to as the Employer Exchange Notice. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provides model notices that employers can download, customize, and distribute to workers. Although the model notices were scheduled to expire May 31, 2017, the DOL has now extended them without any changes through May 31, 2020.


Here are a few quick reminders for employers:

  • Distribute the notice to all employees within 14 days of hire:
    • Include all employees (i.e., full-time, part-time, seasonal, temporary, union, and others), regardless of whether eligible for health coverage at work.
    • Disregard dependents, retirees, former employees, or COBRA beneficiaries.
  • Model notices are posted on the DOL website (see below). There are two versions: one for employers that offer health coverage to some or all employees and the other for employers that do not have any group plans.
  • Notices are available in English and Spanish. Although non-English notices are not specifically required, general DOL guidance refers to providing notices “in a manner calculated to be understood by the average employee.”
  • Download the model notice, then fill in the blanks and variable items as needed. Links are provided below.
  • Distribute the completed notice by first-class mail to the employees’ homes. Alternatively, employers may use electronic delivery if the method meet all DOL guidelines:
  • The delivery method ensures actual receipt (such as via email directly to the employee instead of merely posting the material on the company intranet);
  • The employee regularly accesses the electronic media as an integral part of his or her regular job duties; and
  • The employer notifies the employee of the significance of the material and that a paper copy is available at no cost upon request.

Note: A small employer that is not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) may be exempt from the notice requirement if it is not a hospital, care facility, school or governmental agency.

Model Notices:

The DOL model notices are available below. There are separate versions for employers that offer health coverage to some or all employees and employers that do not offer any health coverage. The model notices contain blank and variable items that must be completed by the employer before distributing to employees.

Model Notice for employers who offer a health plan to some or all employees

Model Notice for employers who do not offer a health plan

Spanish – Model Notice for employers who offer a health plan to some or all employees

Spanish – Model notice for employers that do not offer a health plan

The DOL also provides technical guidance on preparing and distributing the notice. Lastly, here is a copy of the DOL rule relating to the use of electronic delivery.

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ANB GovCon 2017 State of the Budget – Insights from the OMB | Maryland Benefit Advisors

EBG is proudly sponsoring the following event:

2017 State of the Budget: Get the Intel on the State of the 2017 Budget Directly from the OMB

June 13th , 730AM-930AM

The Tower Club
17th Floor Atrium
8000 Towers Crescent Dr. #1700
Vienna, VA 22182

Register Here

Maryland Employment Law Update – April 2017


Employee Benefits Group is committed to keeping you updated with any changes to Maryland’s employment laws.  Below is a list of Employment Law Updates for April 2017:

Unemployment Insurance, Employer Determinations, and Process and Appeal Rights

On April 18, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation (H.B. 139), which specifies the process and timeframe for an employer to exercise appeal rights related to employer determinations under the Unemployment Insurance Law. The legislation also requires the Lower Appeals Division to hear and decide appeals from the review determination decisions.

The law is effective October 1, 2017.

Read MD H.B. 139

Unemployment Insurance Electronic Information

On April 18, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation (H.B. 135) authorizing the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, individuals, and employers to electronically send certain information and documents relating to unemployment insurance.

The law is effective October 1, 2017.

Read MD H.B. 135

Unemployment Insurance and Employer Exemption Upon Closure

On April 18, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation (H.B. 141) that exempts employees of an employer that closes its business operation or part of its business operation for a definite period for inventory, vacation, or another purpose from the requirement to actively seek work during that period to be eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

The law is effective October 1, 2017.

Read MD H.B. 141

Workers’ Compensation and Tiered and Merit Rating Plans

On April 18, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation (H.B. 1315) authorizing a workers’ compensation insurer to develop a tiered rating plan that establishes discrete tiers based on risk attributes that are not arbitrary, capricious, or unfairly discriminatory and are reasonably related to the insurer’s business and economic purposes. The law also requires an insurer to submit a tiered rating plan to the insurance commissioner at least 30 days in advance of the plan’s use, and authorizes an insurer to use a specified merit rating plan under certain circumstances.

The law is effective October 1, 2017.

Read MD H.B. 1315

Workers’ Compensation, Permanent Total Disability, and Survival of Claim

On April 11, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation (S.B. 426) into law, which clarified that if a covered employee dies from a cause that is not compensable under Md. Labor & Empl. Code Ann. § 9-640 (survival of compensation), the right to compensation that is payable and unpaid on the date of death survives to the extent of $65,000, as increased by the cost of living adjustments.

The law is effective October 1, 2017.

Read MD S.B. 426

Youth Sports Workers Exempted from Covered Employment Under Unemployment Insurance Law

On April 18, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation (S.B. 70) clarifying that work performed by qualifying youth sports workers for youth sports organizations is not covered employment under the Unemployment Insurance Law.

The law is effective October 1, 2017.

Read MD S.B 70

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