Work Health and Safety: Workers Compensation for injury at private party

Facts

An employee had been given permission by a company director to hold a private party in conjunction with other friends on company premises as a combined farewell and birthday party. The event was organised by the employee and their flatmate who also supplied their own security guard. Approximately one hundred people attended the party, including the company director who was a guest. At the end of the party an employee, who had consumed a large quantity of alcohol during the night, fell down a flight of stairs and sustained serious head and brain injuries.  The employee claimed workers compensation for the injury and the insurer objected on the basis that (1) the injury had not been in the course of the employee’s employment and (2) the employee’s injury involved misconduct on the part of the employee.

Findings

At first instance the Commission found that the injury had not occurred in the course of employment as required by NSW workers compensation legislation. On appeal, however, Deputy President Roche found that the employee had attended the party because it was a farewell function and it was this employment purpose that motivated their attendance. Of relevance was the fact that the employee was new to the company, did not know many people at the party and had wanted to make a good impression. The Commission held that there was a direct and unbroken connection between the employee’s employment and the injury and the company was ordered to pay the employee’s reasonable hospital and medical expenses.