For many businesses, the end of the financial year is a time for celebration and relief. However, while teams celebrate or unwind, it is not uncommon for injuries to occur. Be it a work golf day, lunch, or drinks at the local pub, employees who are injured at work events may be able to claim Workers Compensation entitlements.

In the ACT an employee is entitled to make a claim for workers compensation for any injury “arising out of, or in the course of, the worker’s employment”. But does a work social event or other work function meet these criteria?

In some cases the answer is yes.

An employer has the same responsibility to keep staff safe at a work event, as they do when you are in the office, or on a worksite. This is even where attendance is optional or if the event is held after hours, and particularly where such events are sponsored by the employer, or where participation is supported, induced, or encouraged by the employer. Events that are not supported by the employer are more likely to be seen to be outside of the course of employment (for example after work drinks or an informal activity organised by or for select colleagues).

This was evident in the recent case of Hattenfels v Richards Panel Pty Ltd 2022 in which a worker sustained a serious brain injury after falling from a golf cart during a work annual Christmas Party.

This case is significant because the Court found the social event was held exclusively for employees and that these employees were encouraged to attend the event. This case also highlighted the potential liabilities of an employer if injuries are sustained by employees at after-parties or other subsequent celebrations which are linked to a work-sanctioned event.

However, it should be noted that the workers compensation legislation in the ACT also sets out some exceptions to these rules. If it is shown that an injury is attributable to the worker’s serious and wilful misconduct, with particular reference to the effect of alcohol and prescribed drugs, then compensation will not be payable.

Given this, it is important that in the enjoyment of work social functions employees exercise care and responsibility when consuming alcohol, and that employers take appropriate steps to manage excessive consumption of alcohol at events.

To find out more about how MEJ can help, visit our workplace accidents page.

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