UK law (civil and criminal) will apply to any activities or events you are organising. Ignorance of a particular law is not usually considered a defence. The following section highlights some of the main legal issues you must be aware of.
Health & Safety
When you organise an activity or event, you have an obligation under the law to exercise a reasonable level of care to avoid causing injury, harm, or loss to people who may be affected by the things you do, or fail to do. Legally, this is known as a 'duty of care' – part of the law of negligence
If you believe that your event/activity might carry an intrinsic risk of causing harm, then you are advised to make the participants aware of such risks beforehand, and take appropriate measures to reduce or minimise such risks.
You should do a risk assessment covering all aspects of your event/activity e.g. location, equipment, etc. An effective risk assessment is a good checklist and evaluation of your plans to make sure that no one might get hurt. If you think that there are any risks or hazards then you must put in place measures to prevent or minimise their impact – see http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/fivesteps.htm
If something does go wrong you are likely to be asked to provide evidence that you have assessed the risks of your activity and put in place reasonable control measures.
Liability and Insurance
If someone does get injured or suffers any loss, and you are blamed, you could be sued for compensation. You should therefore take out Public Liability insurance to indemnify you (i.e. meet some or all of the costs of any successful claims against you) – without this you could personally find yourself having to pay the compensation.
Be clear to the insurers as to the nature of your activities (e.g. don't say it is office-based if you will be undertaking manual labour). We cannot recommend insurance companies but you are advised to seek out a reputable company able to provide at least £1m-£5m of cover.
Your event/activity will not be covered under the University or Student Union's public liability insurance policies.
Please note - Public Liability insurance is entirely different from other types of insurance such as cover for equipment, personal accident or medical and travel insurance. If you think your project requires other types of insurance (e.g. because it is taking place abroad) then you must obtain appropriate insurance before the event/activity takes places.
If you employ people then you should also take out Employer's Liability Insurance – for more information see http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse40.pdf
Child Protection & Working with ‘Vulnerable Adults’ (often referred to as Safeguarding)
If your event/activity involves children or ‘vulnerable adults’ you must make sure that you are fully compliant with the Disclosure and Barring Service legislation (this has replaced the Criminal Record Bureau). You must also ensure that you comply with the Good Practice Section on working with children and vulnerable adults and read the following guidelines - https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service/about
Financial & Other Contracts
If you sign a contract to hire a venue or order goods and services then you will be personally liable for the full payment. Before you sign any legal contract please read all of the small print carefully and make sure you are fully in agreement with every clause. If you are signing a contract for thousands of pounds or more, you should get it checked beforehand, preferably by a solicitor or someone you trust.
You cannot sign a contract stating or implying that you have an association with the University of Sheffield or Students' Union.
If your activity involves selling goods or services, or if you will be 'crowd funding' a project, you may become liable for tax, e.g. VAT, income tax, national insurance. For more information see - http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/
If you raise money for charity there are legal requirements relating to things like street collections, lotteries etc. For more information see - http://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/guidance/ and http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/gambling_sectors/lotteries.asp
If your activity will be taking place abroad, you will need to check whether there are any visa restrictions relating to the host country. Requirements are different for European Union (EU) and non-EU countries, and may be different for participants from different countries (UK/EU/non-EU). You will also need to make sure you have the right insurance cover (see section Insurance- above).
Prior to travel, you should check the Foreign and Commonwealth Officer for travel advice – see https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
Volunteer Records and Data Protection
If you collect peoples names and, contact or other personal details you must keep this information confidential as personal data relating to volunteers falls under Data Protection legislation. For more information see - https://www.gov.uk/data-protection
Driving a Minibus
If you intend hiring and driving a minibus, you will need to comply with the legal requirements e.g. driving licences, weight restrictions use of trailers etc – see https://www.gov.uk/driving-a-minibus
You will be responsible for the actions of your group and you should ensure that everyone is clear about acceptable standards of behaviour and personal conduct. Both the University and Students' Union have procedures to deal with cases of harassment or bullying - see
http://www.shef.ac.uk/ssid/sos/harassment and http://su.sheffield.ac.uk/make-a-change/how-your-students-union-works/policies
Behaviour which causes distress to others and which may constitute harassment will be dealt with by the University and may also be a criminal or civil offence.
In certain limited circumstances, you may need to ask participants to sign a Disclaimer beforehand. A Disclaimer should indicate that the activity/event does carry certain risks and be signed by the participants to record that they are aware of such risks. However, Disclaimers should be used sparingly as they do NOT reduce your legal responsibility to ensure that you have organised the activity/event as safely as possible.
BE CLEAR & WRITE IT DOWN!
You should always produce your own written guidelines, rules or policy documents for your event or activity to make sure that you have covered all of the legal and good practice issues that may be relevant.