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Perspective

Out-of-work activities pose Workers Comp risks

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As social distancing measures ease around the nation, many of us are planning our return to work. It will be tempting to encourage employee attendance at social events or activities to rebuild their connections. Whilst this is a great way to alleviate the impact of the last couple of months, employers must be weary of the underlying workers’ compensation risks.

A recent workers compensation case made an employer liable for injuries an employee sustained participating in a sporting activity outside of work, because the employer had actively encouraged participation.  Read more here.

This is not the first time an employer’s liability was extended to out-of-work activities. In Hills v Pioneer Studios Pty Limited (No 2) [2014] NSWWCCPD 42, Pioneer Studios (PS) was held liable for injuries its employee (Ms Hills) sustained at a party organised by her colleague (Mr Buchanan).

The party was organised by Mr Buchanan and his two flat mates, neither of whom worked for PS. A PS Director allowed them to have the party at the company’s premises. Ms Hill’s supervisor urged her to attend to meet clients and other employees. A PS Director also made direct enquiries with Ms Hill whether she was going to attend. PS was found liable for injuries sustained by Ms Hills when she fell from a balustrade at 2am. The basis for PS’s liability was largely focused on the Director’s enquiry, which encouraged and induced Ms Hills to attend.

To avoid liability in relation to staff social activities, employers need to refrain from organising or contributing significant company resources to such events. Most importantly, employers must not exert any pressure on employees to attend (keeping in mind ‘pressure’, for new or timid employees, may be simply being asked directly whether they will attend – as opposed to forwarding a group invitation to all staff).
Written by Nes Demir

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