The summer period is on the way. This could be an excellent opportunity for your company to organize a getaway or a drink as a reward for your team. But could the company be held liable if damage that occurs during such a company outing? Liability law expert Peter van Eijk brings you the answers.
Personal and corporate responsibility
The Dutch take liability very seriously. Personal liability insurance is mandatory to cover individuals for the event that they accidently damage someone else’s property. Employers also have liability insurance to cover incidents that occur during work and at the office.
However, due to the importance of liability, an increasing number of companies have become reluctant to organise business activities due to potential liability for any damage incurred by employees during these events.
Safety at work
As an employer you have a duty of care with regard to your employees. This means it is your responsibility to ensure safety at work and in the work environment. In principle, the employer is therefore liable for damage that employees cause if the damage was caused by an error during work and the employer had control over the employee. Whether there is an error and whether this error is related to the work depends on the circumstances of the case.
Is the company liable for an office outing or a drink?
Office outings and events can be considered ‘work’. A small borrel (drink) or an international office trip may be considered work, as work does not necessarily begin and end on the work floor. Even if the event takes place outside of the office and even if the company doesn’t organise the event itself, the employer may still be liable.
The more the activities are related to the work, the greater the chance that the liability of the employer will be assumed – even if the employees participate voluntarily in the activities.
Is the company liable during a day out with the team?
A day out with the team on a normal working day may cause liability for the employer in case of calamities. However, not in all cases.
For example, an employee who has committed gross traffic offenses during an event organised by the company will not be able to invoke the liability of the employer because the employer could not be required to prevent such gross violations of the traffic standards.
The District Court of Alkmaar also ruled differently on a particular case. Several employees of an airline company enjoyed a nice evening between two flights. On this evening, one of the employees drove another employee in a golf cart, and an accident resulted. Although the court ruled that the accident occurred during working hours, driving in a golf cart had so little to do with the work that the employer was not liable.
Is the company liable during sports competitions?
What about sports events exactly? Many employers are reluctant to link their name to activities organised by their employees themselves, for example, a company football game. The employees participate voluntarily, the competitions do not take place at the workplace, are usually organised outside working hours and generally have a friendly character.
In my opinion, in case of injuries sustained during the match, the employer’s liability cannot necessarily be assumed.
Conclusion and advice
As an employer, liability should not prevent you from arranging business outings. In order to minimise potential risk, you should always ensure a thorough check of the safety risks is performed and confirm that there is adequate insurance, in advance.
If you choose to outsource an event to an event agency, then as an employer you should still ensure that a thorough check of the safety risks is done, and confirm that the agency has adequate insurance.
Would you like to discuss your specific situation?
If you have concerns about the liability of your company, either as an employee or an employer, please contact our specialised lawyers to assist you.
Peter van Eijk and Glenn Kerver are experts in liability law.
This article was first published in The Hague Online Feel at Home magazine