Work Christmas Parties: Workers’ Rights and Employer Responsibilities

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End-of-year work parties can be a fun way to socialise with colleagues and celebrate a year well spent, but just like any workplace situation, Christmas parties also carry risks.

So, in the event, there is an accident or injury who is to blame, and what are the rights and responsibilities of workers and their employers?

What types of accidents and injuries can occur at work functions?

Accidents and injuries that may be associated with work Christmas parties include:

  • injuries incurred through sports or other activities, team-bonding types of parties;
  • food poisoning or injury from an allergic reaction to food or drink consumed at the party;
  • slip and fall accidents caused by a spilled drink, a hazard or misplaced object, or uneven flooring (like a temporary dance floor); and
  • alcohol poisoning.

What should you do if you are injured at a work function?

Most workplaces will remind party attendees of relevant policies prior to the event. These may include drug and alcohol policies as well as social media conduct and bullying and harassment policies. Your workplace may also advise in advance what steps to take if an accident occurs.

If you are unsure what to do, you should notify your supervisor/manager and human resources representative as soon as possible and provide them with as much detail as you can. If practicable you should record the names of any witnesses and take photos if relevant. First and foremost, any injured parties should be seen by a medical professional if required.

Can you claim workers’ compensation if you are injured at a work Christmas party?

To be successful in making a claim for workers’ compensation, the injury must have been incurred either arising out of or in the course of employment. A work Christmas party may not seem like a regular work activity, but if it occurred in the course of employment it is likely to be deemed as such and, therefore, employees are owed a safe working environment by their employer.

To determine whether or not the Christmas party was a regular work activity, you may need to consider some of the following criteria:

  • Whether the event was mandatory or optional – Mandatory attendance may provide a strong case for a claim for workers’ compensation, particularly if the party took place during work hours in lieu of normal duties.
  • Who paid for the event – If the employer paid for the party it may speak to who bears the responsibility for injuries that occurred. An employer-sponsored event is likely to be considered a work event, whereas impromptu drinks after work with colleagues are unlikely to be deemed regular work activity.
  • Whether the company benefited from hosting the event – If the company was set to benefit from the party, such as through business development with clients who attended as guests, then the event may be deemed a work event, and part of the injured party’s employment.

What responsibilities does the worker have?

If an employee is injured at a work function, the attendance at which is considered to be part of their regular employment, the same rights would likely extend to them as if they were in any other workplace situation. With that in mind, workers must be careful to act in accordance with the way they typically would if they were in their usual working environment and in accordance with all relevant policies. If a worker is found to have caused or contributed to the accident, for example, they were heavily intoxicated or acting in an otherwise negligent manner, it may impede their claim for workers’ compensation or even give rise to disciplinary action.

How to make a claim for workers’ compensation after a work party accident

If you feel that an injury you have sustained was the result of an unsafe environment at a work party, you should seek the assistance of a workers compensation lawyer who can help you to navigate the process of making a claim for compensation. Although it is possible to submit a claim for workers compensation without the assistance of a lawyer, an experienced workers compensation legal professional will be able to advise you on your rights and help you to manage your claim by building your case, keeping on top of strict deadlines and liaising with the insurance provider. If you need help with a compensation claim, contact our experienced lawyers today on (07) 4052 0700.