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Year end parties: having fun whilst covering the risks

December is a time to reflect on the year that has gone by as well as a time to start planning for the next one.  It is also a time that businesses have holiday parties to celebrate the season with their employees as well as their customers.  The celebration can be something as simple as a pot luck held in the break room or as elaborate as one’s creativity and budget permit.

Although this is a time for celebration, there are also risks associated with having a holiday celebration.  When alcohol is served, the issue of liability should someone become intoxicated and injure someone or damage property because they are impaired.  There is also the risk of employees who behave in an untoward manner and engage in some form of wrongful act such as sexually harass a coworker.  In addition, there may be the risk of something happening causing the celebration to be canceled, postponed or relocated due to circumstances beyond the host’s control.

One way to avoid the risks is not to have the event at all, but that wouldn’t be much fun would it!  Many entities see drawbacks in not holding an event in December as they lose out on the benefit for client development and / or employee welfare.

An entity can also hold the event at a location that is licensed to serve alcoholic beverages such as a restaurant or a hotel banquet facility that employs wait staff to serve alcohol.  This way, it is the server of alcoholic beverages that will shoulder responsibility for patrons who become intoxicated.  In such an event, the host can make it clear that there is a, “no host,” bar.  Alternatively, the host can pay for a set number of drinks (one or two).

Another way to manage the risks involving intoxicated guests is making sure that they have a ride home.  One way to do this is arrange for transportation to and from the event, and pay for it.  If the entity is producing the event itself, it can mitigate risks associated with the serving of alcoholic beverages by requiring servers to take an alcohol education course (in some jurisdictions this is mandated as is a license to serve alcohol at an event).  These are available either as a classroom training or on line, and the time to take the course can range from and hour or two to a full day.

Although many employees recognize the need to treat an employer sponsored celebration as the work-related event it is, consideration should be given to reminding employees that it is a work related event.  Another way to reinforce this contention is to consider having the event at the office (taking into consideration issues related to any alcohol that may be served at the event).

Also take a look at your insurance coverages.  If you are serving alcohol at an event, see if you have existing coverage for host liquor liability which provides coverage for any claims related to serving alcohol to participants.  Also examine your coverage for employment practices liability, which provides coverage for allegations of wrongful acts done to employees.

Finally, if your plans are elaborate, consider procuring event cancellation and event liability insurance. Event Cancellation insurance covers losses related to cancellation of an event.  It also can cover the extra expenses associated with relocating and / or rescheduling the event.  Event liability insurance provides coverage for liability and claim defense in the event that someone has a claim alleging that the insured is liable for an incident related to the event.  Event liability insurance can include host liquor liability to cover incidents related to intoxication.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you with your commercial and host liquor liability, employment practices liability, event cancellation or other business insurance please contact us at 1-877-900-9998 or go to https://www.bizinsure.com

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