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I organise small events for my clients, do I need any insurance?

Gerry Donnachie, who heads up the business underwriting team at AXA Insurance, answers your insurance dilemmas

Q: “I run a small business and we often hold private functions at external venues for our clients. I’ve always thought that I don’t need to worry about insurance: we’re not hosting the events at our own office. Is this the case?” reader

A: I’ve mentioned public liability insurance in every single one of these articles I’ve written for, and there’s a good reason for that: it is the building block of any business insurance portfolio, and can have multiple extras built on top to suit you.

I’d argue that every small business should have public liability cover (unless you manage to isolate yourself in a zorb, but even then, your business activities are likely to touch other people’s lives somehow). Holding meetings and events – you have no legal obligation to take out insurance, but it is highly advisable.

As the organiser of a meeting or event, you are responsible under law for the people who attend (in this case your clients and their guests), members of the public who are at the same venue (say, other pub-goers if it is a luncheon), the people who work there, and your own staff or contractors too.

Things to check now

Do you have cover already? If you have public liability insurance already, it probably does already cover you for events you are organising and your participation in things like networking events. It is essential to check now though, as these policies vary in scope enormously, and you may need to up the cover limit, take out cover extras or rearrange it from scratch.

A public liability policy for someone who organises events or meetings should cover your liability (meaning legal costs – whether you fight or settle a case – and compensation due) if something you do (or don’t do):

  • Damage to property
  • A breach of health and safety, consumer protection or food safety laws
  • Accidental injury and manslaughter

The trickiest area is when you organise public events – say, charity events, dinners or sports fun days. These are still often covered by a public liability policy, but they are the ones when you do need to be absolutely on the ball when it comes to risk assessments and safety planning. Some of the largest claims I have seen have originated from charity golf and funfair events.

If you are going for a ‘wow’ factor at your event, that’s great, but do contact your insurer, check what’s covered and get advice.

You can get a quote for a policy on the AXA website or call AXA’s advisers on 0330 159 1520. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, and Saturday, 9am to 2pm (calls may be recorded and monitored).

What about your own equipment? Even small events and presentations these days can involve highly sophisticated ‘wow’ factor technology. If you take things to the venue like AV equipment, digital devices, decks, musical instruments – make sure it is covered. This may be down to a contractor, say if you hire musicians or comperes, but check that with them to avoid disputes later on!

If you are hiring equipment, check your agreement carefully – who arranges cover? And what are your responsibilities under the agreement?

Reducing the risk of things going wrong

Organising an event can be nail-biting, and I wouldn’t want to add extra layers of hassle to that, but I’d recommend you put together a checklist that you take to every venue at the planning stage, and just go through as a matter of routine.

Below, I’ve highlighted some essential steps you need to take when organising your functions.

Note: This is broad brush guidance only, and if you are organising events for children, involving sports, bungee ropes, underwater activities, roof gardens, or anything a bit unusual – do call your insurer for guidance first. There can be a whole host of extra considerations in cases like these, such as getting the right adult-child ratios at a children’s event or having safety equipment in place. Some events will also be best covered by a specialist one-off policy for the short time it runs, as certain activities may not be covered automatically by your annual policy. In all events (no pun intended!), if you are in any doubt, call your insurer and check!

  1. Write a list of potential hazards on the day, and list next to each hazard what you can do to minimise it. In other words, a risk assessment which will help you create a safety plan you can share with the venue, staff and contractors. For small events, a short checklist can be all you need.

The basics would be:

  • Ensuring there aren’t slip and trip hazards like wires running across a walkway from equipment,
  • Knowing the safe limits for people attending your venue and controlling the numbers,
  • Ensuring food and drink is suitable for people with allergies,
  • Guarding machinery, open fires and any obvious hazards,
  • Having first aiders on site,
  • Knowing fire safety and evacuation procedures,
  • Etc, etc. (this ‘etc’ is up to you – and the HSE website offers guidance on the common situations you will find at venues!)
  1. Make sure you brief staff and attendees well on the venue itself, letting them know where:
  • They can park safely
  • First aid, toilets and washing facilities
  • Your safety plan from point 1


  1. Keep your checklist with you, and tick it off, ensuring that everything is being followed on the day.

You can get a quote for a policy on the AXA website or call AXA’s advisers on 0330 159 1520. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm, and Saturday, 9am to 2pm (calls may be recorded and monitored).