Office Party Season & Liability

It’s the season for office Christmas parties – where alcohol flows and employees let loose after a busy year. But with fun and festivities comes liability.Office Party General Commercial Liability Business Insurance Acumen Insurance Hamilton

Particularly at a hired venue, or a party space off-site, party alcohol liability can be a crucial protection for an employer, said Kathleen Greeley-Hamilton, CSR-underwriter at PAL Insurance Brokers, in Simcoe, ON.

“The reason to purchase it [party alcohol liability coverage] is, first of all and most of all, for peace of mind – to know that, if something did happen, which it can, especially when a party involves alcohol, that there’s something to back you up there,” she said.

“Second-most important, most venues in Ontario [at least] will require you to get this type of insurance.”

Business Liability Insurance + Liquor Liability

When hosting in the office space, rather than off-site, commercial general liability (CGL) might cover a business, although liquor liability may also be needed.

“At work, usually a company will have their own CGL in place, but … liquor liability might be a good idea. The CGL may not extend if you are serving alcohol,” Greeley-Hamilton said.

“People always like to overindulge. And the liquor laws are so strict – one drink and you could be considered over the limit. So as an office, you could say, ‘Here at the office, you’re allowed one drink. If you want to keep on drinking, then go to the bar. I don’t want to be responsible’.”

The risk with office parties is that an employee could claim against the company if something was to happen – like a car crash – while they were drunk after leaving, Greeley-Hamilton said. In Ontario, she said, someone could file a lawsuit against their company alleging it was the company’s fault for serving them too much alcohol and not taking their keys away, for example.

“Our policy is in place to come in, for example, for the employer’s defence to say they’re not negligent [if they could show they had tried to take the driver’s keys away],” she explained.

Greeley-Hamilton said employers can also mitigate their risks by telling employees beforehand that nobody should be driving, for example, and could instead offer hotel rooms, or taxis and buses for transportation home.

“These are all things someone could put in place,” she said.


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