The first year’s results are in, and your company has outperformed all expectations. Now is the time to reward your team with a great celebration. But can you really afford the risk of a team outing this summer? Peter van Eijk offers expert insights on the issue of business outings and company liability.
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, an increasing number of companies have become reluctant to organise business activities due to the potential for additional liability for any damage incurred by employees during these events.
Business outings liability: 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 has been practising as a lawyer for 25 years, specialising in compensation, liability claims and personal injury cases. He represents clients who have suffered accidents at work, in traffic, and as a result of criminal acts and defective products. He also handles claims against the government, airlines and financial institutions, and advises professionals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In a well-known case, when an American air force aircraft flew into the wires of a cable car in the Dolomites, Peter supported the family of one of the victims. The compensation payment in that case is still one of the highest ever in the Netherlands.
Peter knows that in a compensation claim, clients need more than just trusted legal advice to face a dispute with a determined counter party. That’s why he has a team of trusted and expert medical advisors, employment consultants and financial specialists who can support his clients in their cases.
Peter’s goal is to achieve redress for his client. He tries to get the best possible amicable settlement to avoid delays in the claim settlement process – but if this is not possible, Peter will not hesitate to achieve that goal via legal proceedings.