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Injuries Sustained At Work Christmas Functions

04 Dec 2015

Section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) sets out the duty of care that an employer has to its employees. It states that:

(1)  A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of—
      (a)  workers engaged, or caused to be engaged by the person; and
      (b)  workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by the person;
     while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking.
(2)  A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

The duty extends to functions including Christmas parties.  An employer must take reasonable steps to ensure that its employees are safe while attending such functions.  It is also important for an employer to ensure that each staff members makes it home safely after the function.

In the High Court case of Comcare v PVYW [2013] HCA 41 at 35, the Court stated:

“Because the employer’s inducement or encouragement of an employee, to be present at a particular place or to engage in a particular activity, is effectively the source of the employer’s liability, the circumstances of the injury must correspond with what the employer induced or encouraged the employee to do. It is to be inferred from the factual conditions stated in Hatzimanolis that for an injury to be in the course of employment, the employee must be doing the very thing that the employer encouraged the employee to do, when the injury occurs.”

This means that an employer does not necessarily owe an employee a duty of care if they are injured while engaging in an activity that is not part of the expectations undertaken while at the work function.