End-of-year work functions and events: employee entitlements, responsibilities and employer duty of care


  • As businesses head into their end-of-year celebrations, what happens when an employee sustains an injury at a work function or work party?

  • Are they able to lodge a workers’ compensation claim? The answer is yes.

Employee entitlements, responsibilities and employer duty of care still apply – even though the event may be held outside of the workplace.

Employer responsibilities to provide a safe working environment do not disappear when the festive season arrives. To be successful in claiming any workers’ compensation statutory benefits, the injury must have arisen out of, or in the course of, employment.

Work functions or parties are likely to be deemed employer-sponsored or organised events that occur ‘in or out of the course of employment’, so employers can be held liable. Employers also have an obligation to ensure everyone goes home from the event safely.

Examples of common injuries that may arise

  • Physical injuries due to slips and trips

  • Psychological injuries due to harassment from colleagues

  • Injuries related to excessive alcohol consumption (however, this may impact the outcome of the claim)

Employees are also responsible

The employer’s obligation to ensure an employee’s safety at a work function/party also extends to the conduct of other employees. Employees are still bound by their usual standards of workplace conduct. For example, anti-discrimination and workplace bullying policies apply at a work function or party.

If a worker’s injury was caused by a breach of safe work practices or company policies, disciplinary action may be appropriate. However, employers can still be held liable for the actions of employees, whether that’s due to inappropriate statements or conduct.

How employers can prepare for and minimise risks

In the event an incident does occur, employers will be asked to demonstrate they took all reasonable steps to reduce, mitigate and manage the conduct. Employers are encouraged to consider the following examples of behavioural recommendations:

  • Respectful interactions. Consider designating a responsible contact person at the event to oversee the event, monitor behaviour and provide assistance for employees if they have any concerns or need supervision.

  • Start and finish times for the event. Ensure there are clear guidelines for start and finish times and that any “after parties” which follow on from the event are undertaken by employees in their own time and are not endorsed by the employer.

  • Leaving the event. Employees should make travel arrangements to get home safely at the end of the function. Consider arranging transport for employees to and from the venue.

  • Follow company policies. Be aware of and adhere to all company policies related to conduct and harassment. Check whether current policies cover employee behaviour at social functions.

  • Communicate with employees prior to the event. Remind employees of their obligations and share details on the types of behaviours that are and aren’t acceptable.

  • Professional attire. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Even though it’s a celebration, it’s still a work-related event. Maintaining professionalism is essential.

Final takeaway

Remember that workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” scheme, meaning that if an injury is work-related, a worker will have an entitlement to compensation. It is irrelevant that the injury may have been caused wholly or partly by the actions of the worker. By proactively managing potential risks, setting clear expectations, and promoting responsible behaviour, employers can ensure an enjoyable and safe time for all.

Contents of this publication are provided for general information only. It is not intended to be interpreted as advice on which you should rely and may not necessarily be suitable for you. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. Lockton arranges the insurance and is not the insurer. Any insurance cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. For full details refer to the specific policy wordings and/or Product Disclosure Statements available from Lockton on request.