Office parties are a staple of the Winter season, as companies look to bring employees together to reflect on what was achieved the past year, look ahead to what’s in store for the future, and have fun and thank their employees for all they have done. Office parties boosts morale, help to develop bonds, and bolster the team environment. These events are great for the whole company, but they can also lead to several unfortunate scenarios, so companies need to be sure they are covered for whatever comes their way.
We have prepared coverage suggestions to ensure that you have fun and a peace of mind while being protected during the holidays:
What are the risks associated with company parties?
One of the major factors contributing to risk at company events and parties is alcohol. Most states have liquor liability laws, which means any business serving alcohol could be held liable for injuries or damages if they wind up serving an underage or intoxicated person. These laws are meant to regulate bars and restaurants, but in some states, those serving alcohol at private or corporate functions can also be found responsible.
Whether or not booze is flowing, employees socializing after hours can lower their inhibitions and act inappropriately. For example, employees have reported sexual harassment or discrimination that took place at corporate-sponsored events. Things get especially complicated when guests include non-employees, such as spouses or clients.
Speaking of discrimination, holiday parties that focus on one religion can lead to certain groups feeling left out, and subsequently potential legal issues.
Additionally, labor law violations could be considered if employees feel that they are required to attend an event for business purposes outside of their normal, paid working hours.
How can workplaces protect themselves from liquor liability?
- Liquor Liability insurance – Liquor liability insurance protects the host from responsibility for bodily injury or property damage resulting from intoxication. You can endorse your General Liability insurance with Host Liquor Liability (in case you’re not selling the alcohol). In the case you are selling alcohol or your General Liability insurance does not offer the endorsement, you can buy Special Event insurance with a Liquor Liability insurance endorsement.
- Monitoring liquor consumption – Hosts should keep an eye out to make sure that intoxicated employees stop being served. Think about hiring a professional bartender to serve the drinks, and give them explicit instructions to stop service if they suspect anyone is intoxicated. Hiring caterers and servers puts the responsibility of monitoring alcohol consumption in the hands of professionals, and demonstrates forethought and responsible planning on the part of the business.
- Providing Transportation – Preparing ride shares, taxis, or Uber to ensure employees don’t have to drive home from office events will help keep them safe and protect your company from liability. Check to see what designated driver programs are available in your state. Many of these programs will drive employees home in their own car, giving them less reason to drive home themselves. Plan ahead! Some programs require advanced reservations, and in the busy holiday season availability of taxis and other services may be limited. As well, door prizes and special gifts can be used to incentivize employees to be designated drivers.
Protect Your Business: Special Events Liability Insurance & Beyond
For as little as $150 you can get it and reduce the risks associated with holiday parties. Even if your business is not found at fault for an incident, the legal costs of responding to a claim can bankrupt you. Many businesses purchase Special Events insurance to protect themselves in these scenarios. Special Events Insurance covers liability if your company is found responsible for property damage or a third-party injury caused during your event. Depending on the type of Special Event Insurance, your policy can cover your guests, including their medical and personal injury costs associated with an incident that occurs at the holiday party.
Isn’t this already covered by my General Liability? General Liability Insurance does cover third party claims of injury and property damage – but your policy likely doesn’t extend to events that happen outside of normal business operations, like a holiday party.
Another important type of insurance that can protect your business in case of harassment or discrimination claims is Employment Practices Liability insurance or EPLI. If customers or non-employee guests are invited to attend, ensure that your EPLI policy extends coverage to them as well.
Office Party Preparedness Tips
If you’re responsible for planning your company’s festivities, here’s a list of things to consider to reduce your business’s risks:
- Discourage employees from driving home intoxicated by offering taxi reimbursements or arranging transportation.
- If holding the party on company property, hire a catering company or professional bartenders to serve food and alcohol, and require that they provide proof of liability insurance, naming your company as an Additional Insured.
- Ensure your company’s harassment and employee conduct policies specify that they also extend to social events.
- Require proof of licensing and insurance from third party vendors contracted for the event, as well as from the venue if the party will be held off-premises.
- Keep holiday parties religiously and culturally neutral to ensure that all feel included and welcome.
- Hold the party outside of work hours, and emphasize that attendance is optional.