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Category Archives: Business

Reduce Your Exposures During Work Events

Businesses host parties for a variety of reasons, including the holidays and organizational accomplishments. While these events are fun, team-building opportunities, they can create a number of risks for the hosting company. In fact, in the event that an employee is injured at the party or causes property damage, the employer is usually the one held responsible. This can lead to costly litigation and reputational harm that can affect a company for years.

To avoid major losses, it’s not only important for employers to secure the right insurance coverage for every individual risk, but to also have a thorough understanding of common holiday party exposures.

Alcohol

Anytime you provide alcohol to individuals in a non-commercial manner, you are considered a social host. This is important to note, as a social host may be responsible for the acts of their guests should their conduct create harm. These risks are compounded when alcohol is served, and employers may be liable for damages following a drunken driving accident or similar incident.

While the best way to reduce alcohol liability risks is to avoid serving it altogether, this isn’t always feasible. To promote the safety of your employees and guests at company-sponsored events, consider the following:

  • Hold the event off-site at a restaurant or hotel.
  • Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the night.
  • Serve drinks to guests rather than offering a self-serve bar. Limit the amount of alcohol you will serve. Require servers to measure spirits.
  • Set up bar stations instead of having servers circulate the room. Place table tents at each bar that remind employees and guests to drink responsibly.
  • Don’t price alcohol too low, as it encourages overconsumption. Offer a range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks at no charge.
  • Close the bar an hour before the scheduled end of the party. Do not offer a “last call,” as this promotes rapid consumption.
  • Entice guests to take advantage of safe transportation options by subsidizing taxis or promoting a designated driver program.

Marijuana Consumption

Similar to alcohol use, marijuana and other drug consumption can directly affect the safety of your party guests. In fact, according to the most recent data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, approximately 34 per cent of vehicle crash deaths can be linked to drug-impaired driving, which is nearly as many as those related to alcohol.

Marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, many of which act directly on the body and brain. Individual sensitivity to marijuana can vary, but the general effects include the following:

  • Dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, fatigue and headaches
  • Impaired memory, concentration and ability to make decisions
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Suspiciousness, nervousness, anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations
  • Impaired motor skills and perception
  • Dry mouth, throat irritation and coughing
  • Increased heartbeat

These health effects can last long after an employee smoked, increasing the potential for accidents or major health concerns. In addition, federal, provincial and local laws may prohibit marijuana use in certain areas, making it all the more important to educate employees on behaviour expectations.

To keep your party guests safe and avoid any liability concerns, consider making clear rules for marijuana use at your party. Remind employees that even though they are at a social event, they are still attending a work function and workplace policies on the use of marijuana still apply.

Workplace Harassment and Discrimination

Even when holding company-sponsored events off-site, employers are expected to enforce their workplace policies and safeguard their employees. In particular, employers must pay extra care to prevent issues of harassment and discrimination at their events, as they can lead to employment claims and costly litigation.

To help keep employees safe at company parties, employers should ensure all of their policies related to harassment, violence, discrimination and code of conduct are up to date and account for company-sponsored events. Policies should be specific as to what is and is not tolerated, and redistributed them as thoroughly as possible.

In addition, employers should:

  • Consider making the event a family party where employees can bring their spouse, significant other, children or a friend. This can help deter inappropriate behaviour.
  • Keep event themes and decorations appropriate. Parties should be neutral and not make reference to specific religions or beliefs. In addition, plan your party on a day that does not conflict with religious holidays.
  • Consider having just one entrance to your party. This will allow you to control who enters the venue and ensure that uninvited guests do not attended.
  • Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behaviour. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
  • Avoid making attendance for company-sponsored events mandatory.

Food Exposures

Food is a staple of many company-sponsored events, and can actually be a useful way to keep party guest sober and limit alcohol-related liability (starchy foods can help reduce the absorption of alcohol). However, when serving food, there are a number of risks employers should consider.

For instance, employers need to be wary of potential food allergies. In the event that a guest gets sick from the food, they could sue the employer for negligence.

To help protect against this, employers should ask party guests to disclose any of their allergies, either in their RSVP or by contacting the event coordinator directly. In addition, you should specify what ingredients are in every food item, both on the menu and on display cards near the food itself.

For added protection against illnesses, it’s critical that employers promote safe food preparation and handling practices. Moreover, when working with a third-party provider, employers should do their due diligence to ensure they are securing reputable vendors.

Property Damage

Property damage can occur at just about any kind of party, even small, company-sponsored events. As the host, it’s your job to ensure your guests remain safe, behave appropriately and respect the venue and its contents.

To do so, employers should:

  • Set behaviour expectations before the party.
  • Have supervisors and managers chaperone the event, looking closely for inappropriate behaviour. Hire third-party security personnel as needed.
  • Remove valuable items from the party area wherever possible. Make sure any areas that you don’t want guests to enter are locked, roped off or secured in some way.
  • Review your liability insurance and know what it covers.
  • Ensure the venue is equipped to handle the number of individuals invited to the party.

Secure the Coverage You Need in Advance

Even if you take all the appropriate precautions, incidents can still occur. As such, it’s important for all organizations to secure adequate insurance.

Each business is different, and may require additional policies to account for all of their exposures. Contact your insurance broker to learn about your coverage options when it comes to hosting a party.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


Conducting Workplace Investigations

Workplace investigations are crucial when it comes to establishing a safe and welcoming work environment. There are many reasons you may have to conduct a workplace investigation, including:

  • Employee behaviour, including concerns of discrimination, harassment or threats
  • Suspected substance use
  • Violations of workplace rules and workplace theft

Investigations are often complex and can involve navigating sensitive topics and disputes. More than ever before, companies face irreversible reputational damage and negative publicity if they mishandle workplace investigations.

To navigate workplace investigations properly, detailed interviews are key. Interviews can provide a clear understanding of an incident and help employers determine what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken. Employers will want to decide:

  1. Who to interview—Interviews should be conducted with respondents, complainants and witnesses at a minimum. It’s a good idea to only interview those who have information relevant to the case. It may also be helpful to have more than one investigator present during the interview.
  2. What order to interview—Employers should be cognizant of the interview order. Generally, businesses should interview the complainant first, any witnesses second and the respondent third. Schedule follow-up interviews as needed. Each subject should be informed that the interview process is confidential.
  3. What to ask during interviews—Questions should be written and prepared ahead of time. These questions should be a mix of open- and close-ended questions. Above all, interview questions should help investigators gather details related to times, dates, locations, individuals involved and other witnesses. Sample questions include:
    1. What happened? When and where did it happen?
    2. Who was present? Who did or said what?
    3. Why did it happen? Is there evidence? Who else may have relevant information?

Interview responses and other relevant details should be recorded throughout the investigative process. Investigators should take detailed notes, which will help during the review process.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


5 Tips to Make Your Passwords More Secure

Because identity theft and data breaches are becoming an ever-growing problem, it’s important to not only have a different password for each account, but to make those passwords easy to remember and hard to guess. The following are tips you can use to make your password harder to crack:

  1. Change your passwords every 90 days. This might seem like a hassle at first, but hackers have a better chance at cracking your passwords if they never change. It’s also a good idea to avoid reusing passwords.
  2. Make your passwords at least eight characters long. Generally, the longer a password is, the harder it is to guess.
  3. Don’t use the same password for each account. Hackers target lower security websites and then test cracked passwords on higher security sites. Make sure each account has a different password.
  4. Include uppercase letters and special characters in your password. Special characters include symbols like “#,” “*,” “+” and “>.” These symbols can make your password more complex and harder to guess.
  5. Avoid using the names of spouses, kids or pets in your password. All it takes for a hacker to crack passwords that include these things is a little research on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


The Importance of Certificates of Insurance

No matter what industry you’re in, chances are your organization will, at some point, rely on the help of a third party to fulfill certain business needs. Regardless of who you work with, business arrangements with contractors and vendors can open you up to a number of risks—risks that need to be accounted for through insurance.

However, when accounting for risks related to contracted work, securing your own insurance is not always enough. It’s critical that your partners are covered as well. This is particularly important when you consider that, following an incident involving a contractor or vendor, your business could be the one held liable for any damages that occur.

To protect against this sort of risk, many organizations turn to certificates of insurance (COIs).

What is a Certificate of Insurance?

One of the main ways organizations manage and review the coverages of their partners is through COIs. A COI is a valuable—yet misunderstood—tool in the insurance industry. COIs are used across a variety of commercial business relationships and essentially serve as proof that a particular party has an insurance policy in effect.

While you may require your partners and vendors to carry insurance in your contracts, coverage needs can change quickly, making it necessary to regularly review the policies. In addition, contractors and vendors may not be honest about what risk management strategies they have in place, making you wrongfully assume you are protected.

Often only a few pages long, COIs are summary documents issued on behalf of an insurer that outline the name of the insurer and insured, essential terms and conditions, policy limits and the duration of the policy.

COIs also contain qualifying language that defines the document as informational. This means that COIs are not contracts or the legal equivalent of actual insurance policies.

The Purpose of COIs

For the insured, COIs serve as proof of coverage—proof that can be provided to customers, contractors or other third parties quickly and efficiently. COIs also indicate that the insured has the financial resources available to protect those who may be harmed by their actions.

It’s incredibly important for businesses to get COIs for every contractor or third party they bring onto a project. Even if you have worked with these third parties in the past and trust them, COIs prevent organizations from accidently taking on risks associated with the work of their subcontractors and vendors.

Before allowing contractors to perform work on your property or on your behalf, asking for a COI is a must. This can help you in several ways:

  1. COIs can keep companies from taking on unnecessary risks if a contractor is responsible for a loss and is not properly insured.
  2. COIs can provide protection in the event that a contractor is injured on your property while performing work.
  3. COIs ensure organizations are compensated if contracted work is done improperly or not completed.

However, while collecting COIs is an important risk management strategy, there are a number of administrative considerations to keep in mind.

Managing COIs Effectively

Managing COIs can pose an administrative challenge, and businesses need to have procedures in place to collect and maintain them effectively. Many organizations choose to automate this process as much as possible, opting for systems that notify them when a COI is required but is no longer in effect.

In addition, when managing COIs, it’s important to ask yourself the following:

  • Is the COI provided on a proper form?
  • Is the company named on the COI the same as the one named in the contract?
  • Is the policy issued by a reputable insurer?
  • Is the COI signed by an insurance company or agency representative?
  • Are the types and limits of insurance listed on the form the same or greater than those required by you under the contract?
  • Are specific policy numbers listed on the certificate?
  • Are the dates of coverage adequate for the specified work?
  • Are there notice of cancellation provisions listed on the COI? Are they acceptable?
  • Does the COI indicate any special insurance requirements you have specified?
  • Do you require written contracts with every third party you work with, either by annual agreement for all work or by separate agreement for each project?
  • Are your files organized and do they account for contracts, COIs and any other additional insured endorsements?
  • Do you have a system in place (e.g., a certificate management system) for tracking expiration dates?

Learn More

Securing the right insurance policy, outlining specific insurance requirements in all contracts and requiring COIs can provide all parties with peace of mind. However, securing and managing COIs can be complicated, and it’s critical to enlist the help of an experienced insurance broker.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


How New Rules for Police Record Checks Affect Ontario Employers

OVERVIEW

On Nov. 1, 2018, Bill 113, the Police Record Checks Reform Act, 2015, came into force in Ontario. Among other things, Bill 113 (the Act) standardizes the process for conducting police record checks, including checks requested by employers when screening an individual for employment purposes. The Act also limits the type of information that may be disclosed in response to a check.

These new changes could have a direct effect on employers, so it’s important to have a basic understanding of the Act.

BILL 113’s IMPACT ON POLICE RECORD CHECKS

As previously mentioned, Bill 113 looks to standardize how police record checks are performed. To accomplish this, the Act:

  • Outlines and defines three types of record checks—Under Bill 113, police officials may conduct three types of police record checks:
    • Criminal record checks (includes applicable criminal convictions and findings of guilt under the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act)
    • Criminal record and judicial matters checks (includes applicable criminal convictions and findings of guilt under the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act, absolute and conditional discharges, outstanding charges, arrest warrants and certain judicial orders)
    • Vulnerable sector checks (includes information disclosed in a criminal record and judicial matters check, applicable findings of not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, record suspensions related to sexually based offences and non-conviction-related information when a strict test is met)
  • Requires consent before a check can be conducted—In order for a record check to occur under Bill 113, record check providers must receive written consent from the individual the record check pertains to:
  1. Before the check is conducted; and
  2. Before the record check provider discloses information authorized for disclosure by the Act to the requesting organization or person
  • Specifies the type of information that can be disclosed in a record check—Bill 113 allows for the disclosure of certain types of information in relation to each type of check. However, Bill 113 only permits the disclosure of non-conviction information in response to a vulnerable sector check, provided the information satisfies the prescribed criteria for “exceptional disclosure.” Non-conviction information refers to details in instances where an individual was charged with a criminal offence, but the charge was dismissed, withdrawn, or resulted in a stay of proceedings or an acquittal. In the past, when potential employers carried out a police record check, they could receive a variety of non-conviction information, such as records of mental health detentions, complaints where charges were never laid, withdrawn charges and acquittals. This is no longer the case.
  • Limits the use of information—Bill 113 prevents individuals and organizations from disclosing the results of a check. However, information may be disclosed should it be requested or authorized by law.

CONSIDERATIONS FOR EMPLOYERS

Employers need to ensure that policies and procedures related to police record checks are in accordance with the new, standardized process. Of all the changes made by Bill 113, the following are the most noteworthy for employers:

  • Employers will no longer be able to obtain non-conviction information, unless the employer conducts a vulnerable sector check and the criteria for exceptional disclosure has been met.
  • Employers may not use or disclose the results of the check, unless it is requested or authorized by law.
  • Individuals being screened will be able to control the type of information disclosed.
  • Written consent for checks must specify the type of check that the individual is consenting to.
  • If a police record check is necessary, an employer will need to prepare for potential delays in obtaining the required information during the recruitment process.
  • Employers must take their Human Rights Code obligations into consideration when requesting or performing police record checks.

To learn more about Bill 113, employers should visit the government’s official page on police record checks.

© Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


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