Licensees warned over rising 'compenstion culture'.

By Tony Halstead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Insurance companies, Risk management, Risk

Insurance companies are warning licensees to expect sharp rises in public liability premiums as the growing litigation culture prompts customers to...

Insurance companies are warning licensees to expect sharp rises in public liability premiums as the growing litigation culture prompts customers to claim for obesity, alcohol and smoking-related diseases.

Liability cover has already climbed by some 35% in the past year and now licensees are being warned to review all risk assessment procedures to protect themselves against possible claims.

Pub and bar operators are being urged to treat the issue seriously, with insurers warning that one successful claim would trigger a "domino effect" of litigation racing through the industry.

One insurer, Zurich London, says companies will now be scrutinising what the food and drink sector is doing to demonstrate social responsibility.

Head of public liability at Zurich John Inwood said: "We are urging the food and drink industry to revisit their risk management policies, as insurers will be looking more closely than ever before at what the food and drink sector is doing to demonstrate that they are being socially responsible."

But trade leaders insist licensees can protect themselves by drawing up effective risk assessment procedures to show they are being socially responsible.

Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations chief executive Tony Payne said hosts need to show insurers that they are working hard to limit risks to the health of customers using their premises.

"If they can persuade their insurance companies they are taking action to reduce these various risks, premium increases should be minimised," Payne said.

"Although the issue of obesity is a relatively new one for the trade, protecting customers from the effects of smoke and alcohol misuse are already high on our agenda."

Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers chief executive Nick Bish called on insurance companies to look more closely at what the trade is doing to address the various issues.

"Insurers should work with us towards finding a solution rather than hiking up premiums in this way," he said. "I think they should study what is actually being done and play a role with the industry in a more responsible approach to these contentious issues.

"As for the obesity issue, I think many pubs would say they offer a better balanced menu than most of the high street fast food outlets."

The British Institute of Innkeeping urged licensees to employ best practice by training their staff and signing up for things such as the Charter on Smoking.

JD Wetherspoon said the warnings should be noted carefully but insisted it was not unduly alarmed.

"We'd like to think people who eat and drink in our pubs are old enough and wise enough to look after themselves," said spokesman Eddie Gershon. "But our menus contain a number of healthy option alternatives with a full range of soft drinks to cater for all needs and tastes."

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