The festive season is upon us again and for many of us it is a time to let our hair down and party! Work festive functions are a wonderful opportunity for team-building and also a chance for employers to thank their employees for all of the hard work they have put in over the year.

But what happens when you sustain an injury at the work Christmas party? Are you able to make a claim? In this article we answer this very question. We examine worker rights and employer responsibilities at the annual Christmas party and in the event of work Christmas party accidents.

Can you make a claim if you were injured at the work Christmas party?

To be successful in claiming statutory benefits (as different from a common law claim for negligence) from WorkCover Queensland, your injury must be an injury arising out of, or in the course of employment. Work Christmas parties are likely to be deemed employer-sponsored events that occur ‘in the course of employment’.

So, depending on the circumstances, you may then be able to make a claim for statutory benefits (such as the cost of medical expenses or lost wages) from WorkCover Qld if you sustain an injury due to a work Christmas party accident, and are unable to work.

This right to claim extends to an injury that occurs:
  • On your way to the party;
  • At the work party (regardless of whether the function is on work premises or at an external venue);
  • On your way home from the party.
However if you decide to continue to party after the function is deemed to be over you are no longer able to make a claim for benefits, as this is not ‘in the course of employment’.

It is important to remember however that as the work Christmas party is a work event, employees will no doubt still be bound by their usual standards of workplace conduct. Employees need to be mindful that their company’s code of conduct, anti-discrimination, and workplace bullying policies will still apply at the Christmas party.

Are employers responsible for the safety of their employees at the Christmas party?

As work Christmas parties/functions occur ‘in the course of employment’ employers can be held liable for injuries that occur to employees while attending these events. Employers therefore have the responsibility to ensure the safety of all employees at work-related Christmas functions. They have the duty to ensure the health, welfare, and safety of employees who attend their Christmas party.

If an employer fails to do this then a worker may be able to bring a claim for negligence against them.

The employer’s legal liability to ensure employee safety at the Christmas party also extends to the conduct of other employees. Employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees which extends to inappropriate statements and conduct that occurs at work-related Christmas celebrations.

It is therefore important for employers to have measures in place to ensure they minimise their exposure to the risk of an accident occurring. Such measures may include:
  • ensuring responsible service and consumption of alcohol together with appropriate quantities of food and non-alcoholic beverages;
  • having a code of conduct and drug and alcohol policy in place prior to Christmas functions and reminding employees of those policies before the function;
  • training employees and managers in relation to the standard of conduct required at work functions;
  • making appropriate transport arrangements if alcoholic beverages are served;
  • having appropriate monitoring and supervision at the party;
  • having a complaints process;
  • taking appropriate and timely action if issues arise.
Work Christmas parties are a time for fun, food and drinks. If an injury occurs it is comforting to know that you are likely still covered by your employer’s workers compensation insurance policy. However employees must remember that their workplace code of conduct will still apply.
Whether you can bring a claim for damages against your employer for an injury sustained at the party will depend upon the circumstances of how your injury occurred. To be successful your employer must have failed in their duty to keep you safe at the Christmas party and as a result of this failure you sustained personal injury.

With all of the above in mind, believe it or not, it is still possible to have fun at the Christmas party. Career FAQ’s has the following survival advice for employees at the office Christmas party:

  1. Whatever you do, don’t get drunk;
  2. Avoid lust and other catastrophes
  3. Dress appropriately
  4. Mingle
  5. Don’t talk about work
  6. Find a party buddy
  7. Keep it clean
  8. Don’t be a pig and
  9. Have fun!

We hope you have a wonderful time at your work Christmas party! However, if you do happen to sustain an injury at a work Christmas party, we may be able to help — give us a call or fill out a free case review form for a free chat with an expert lawyer.

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