Legal Issues to Avoid on Retreats

How to Lower Your Liability Risk
Liability is always a risk in business, and the retreat industry is no exception. However, it is possible to lower your risk. The more thoroughly you prepare ahead of your retreat, the less likely you will encounter costly surprises.

By Catherine Kontos@KontosCatherine

Liability is always a risk in business, and the retreat industry is no exception. However, it is possible to lower your risk. The more thoroughly you prepare ahead of your retreat, the less likely you will encounter costly surprises. Clear and specific information, committed to by clients, reduces the chance for misunderstandings and liabilities. It reduces misconduct too, creating a safe environment for everyone involved.

Here’s my list of retreat must do’s and must have’s:

1. Visas and entry requirements

If you’re planning an international retreat, make sure that the country you plan to visit is open to tourists. Research precise details of entry for that country. The last thing you want is to choose a destination that requires expensive or time-consuming visa applications from your attendees. An entry visa can be denied, or the applicant can wait for a long time to get a response. These expenses and stresses are best avoided through careful planning.

2. Travel and health insurance are non-negotiable

Make sure you and your staff are covered—and DO NOT assume your credit card covers you fully. Call your credit card company and ask for the details by email. Further, protect yourself by requesting proof of insurance from your participants before it’s time to leave. You certainly don’t want responsibility for an ill or injured client who is left stranded with no money to pay for their medical bills.

Concerning COVID-19: As a private vendor, you are permitted to require proof of vaccination, antibodies, and/or insurance covering COVID-19 from every client. The decision to do so is up to you. If you choose those stipulations, add them to your sales page and contract along with any testing required during travel or entry to another country.

3. General and professional liability protection is essential.

Cover yourself. Draw up a lawyer-reviewed legal contract. Buy insurance if you or your lawyer feel more coverage is necessary. Various kinds of insurance might apply:

  1. a. General Liability Insurance covers any injuries that might occur at an event that takes place in your personal venue. If someone slips, falls, hurts themselves, and chooses to sue, your insurance and contract should kick in to cover your costs.
  2. b. Business Insurance will cover liability for injuries that occur in a venue owned by your business.
  3. c. Errors and Omissions Insurance protects retreat planners by covering any errors in planning or aspects of the event that don’t unfold according to plan.
  4. d. Event Insurance is a must-have if you plan to have more than 100 guests in attendance.
4. Waivers, releases, and disclaimers

Should be included in the contract and on your website or sales page when clients reserve or book their spot at your retreat. This way, the client has no legal provision to claim they were unaware of any specific retreat information or that they weren’t told about it until after booking the retreat.

If you want to market your retreat, make sure to have your participants sign a media release form (form provided in The RetreatBoss™ Master Planner). This release permits you to use pictures and videos that include images of your participants. You may also include General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which protects data privacy and security.

5. Independent contractors

Can be considered your legal responsibility if they own their own company, are flexible with their time, charge you a fee, and place you in charge of their actions at your event. If you’re hiring independent contractors—and you likely will—make it clear in your contracts that you are not responsible for any mishaps that occur while under contract. That way, you’ll be covered should an independent contractor decide to sue.

6. Copyright

Will protect what you teach and anything you present. Include copyright notification in your contract and on all the documentation you intend to present at your retreat.

7. Contracts with participants

Should include as much as the above information as applicable, plus any details relevant to your retreat and business.

Legal templates worth $5,000 have been drawn up by our lawyer and are included with the purchase of RetreatBoss™ Excellence Certification. Do have the template reviewed by your lawyer to make sure the details apply to your retreat and business.

8. Seller of Travel Law (SOT)

Is a central source of legal guidance for the travel industry. It incorporates elements of contract law, employment issues, tourism and hospitality procedures, anti-trust rules, regulatory and agency compliance, and international treaties.

The SOT may vary among states or provinces and various travel regulatory enterprises in other countries. If you are not a travel agent or if you are not working with a travel agency, you could encounter restrictions. Those restrictions depend upon where you or your business are physically located, the physical location of your retreat, and client places of residency.

If you don’t comply with SOT requirements or if you aren’t authorized to sell travel, you may face fines and penalties. Because restrictions vary from place to place, your best bet for compliance is to check with the local authorities for your retreat location who are responsible for SOT. If you aren’t authorized to sell travel, you will need to work as an independent contractor through a travel company.

9. Venue and supplier contracts

Need to be read carefully and negotiated, most importantly, what is or is not included in cancelation policies, deposit requirements, and dates.

10. Electronic Signatures

It may seem easy and practical, but are they legally binding? It depends on the platform you are using and any proof they provide. Electronic signatures are binding when the platform:

  1. a. sends you proof of receipt
  2. b. requires and initial on each page and a dated signature at the end of the contract; and
  3. c. sends you a copy of the signed contract.

For additional security, ask the client to submit a scanned image of an official photo identification document such as a driver’s license or passport.

11. Group and retreat rules or guidelines for group conduct

Set the stage for friendly interaction and help avoid the potential for uncomfortable confrontations. These guidelines shouldn’t be a control tactic, but a friendly reminder of the behavior expected at your retreat. Some facilitators might define strict rules that result in the expulsion of an offending guest, while other facilitators will merely suggest appropriate behavior or employ a mixture of both approaches. Rules and/or guidelines create a sense of structure within the group and make guests feel more comfortable. Be careful not to over-structure or over-regulate; it will defeat the purpose of the retreat, but make sure clients read, understand, and sign the rules. (template provided in The RetreatBoss™ Master Planner)

Each of the RetreatBoss™ courses Retreat Planning for the Practitioner and Retreat Planning for the Professional includes a template of group and retreat rules for your perusal.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this post is for general information purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Should you have specific legal questions about any of the information on this lesson, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your area.

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