As the countdown to Christmas commences, businesses up and down the country are gearing themselves up to host their annual festive get together. But what if you attend your office party and end up getting injured? Can you sue your employer for compensation and what happens if the injury occurs at an unofficial follow-on event?
The answer to these and other frequently asked questions are discussed below.
What are My Employer’s Responsibilities?
Your employer has a legal duty to protect your health, safety and wellbeing while at work and when attending a work-related event, including the office Christmas party.
Compliance with this duty is achieved by carrying out a risk assessment to identify potential threats and by your employer then taking whatever measures are reasonably practicable to ensure that you are kept safe from harm.
What Sorts of Risk is My Employer Required to Consider?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, including where the party is held, the planned format and what your employer has agreed to provide.
Common risks most employers will take into account include:
- bad weather that may make getting to or from the party hazardous;
- any features of the chosen venue that present an obvious danger, such as uneven floors, spiral staircases, balconies and areas leading to a steep drop;
- the possibility of dance floor injuries occurring, as drinks get spilled and colleagues get ever more adventurous with their moves;
- the possibility that some of those in attendance will consume more alcohol than they can handle or choose to take drugs; and
- the possibility that colleagues may come to blows or behave inappropriately.
What Sorts of Precautionary Measures can I Expect My Employer to Take?
The answer to this question will again vary depending on the circumstances, but as a general rule you can usually expect your employer to have worked with the venue to ensure that:
- walkways to and from the building in which the party will take place are adequately lit and kept free of ice and snow;
- hazards within the venue are clearly marked through the display of warning signs and adequately fenced off or made safe to navigate;
- food and drink that ends up on the floor is cleared away quickly;
- someone is appointed to keep an eye on behaviour and to step in if it becomes clear that things are getting out of hand; and
- there are a sufficient number of first-aiders available to deal with injuries.
What Types of Injury might I be able to Claim Compensation for?
Compensation can be claimed for a range of injuries, including:
- broken bones and torn ligaments caused by a slip or trip;
- back, neck, shoulder and leg injuries caused by a fall;
- burns and scalds caused by the spillage of hot food or drink;
- cuts and puncture wounds caused by broken glass or smashed bottles;
- bruising, lacerations, internal organ trauma, brain injuries and spinal damage caused by a violent attack or sexual assault; and
- psychological trauma triggered by a physical altercation or verbal abuse.
However, it is important to note that in some cases a claim for compensation will be directed at someone other than you employer, such as the venue owner where the cause of your injury is down to their negligence or that of their staff.
What if My Injury Occurs at an Unofficial Afterparty?
Claiming compensation from your employer can be difficult where you are injured after the party has ended, but there are cases where claims have been allowed.
For example, in 2018 a company was ordered to pay compensation to an employee who sustained a life-changing brain injury when he was punched by the company’s managing director at a hotel bar that he and some colleagues had moved on to after the official works party at a local golf club had finished.
While the case was unusual and only succeeded because the catalyst for the attack was the MD’s desire to asset his authority over the employee as the company’s leader, it shows that afterparty claims are sometimes possible and that it is therefore always worth seeking legal advice to find out where you stand.
It is also worth mentioning that even where a claim against your employer cannot be pursued, there may be other means by which a compensation payment can be secured for an afterparty incident. For example, a violent assault by a colleague might give rise to entitlement to make a claim under the government’s criminal injuries compensation scheme and a road traffic accident caused by a colleague’s actions might give rise to a claim against them or the vehicle driver.
How much Compensation am I likely to get?
The level of compensation you receive will depend on the nature of your injuries and the impact they have had on you. Minor injuries from which you quickly recover may only attract a payment of a few hundred or thousand pounds, whereas more serious injuries with long-lasting consequences could result in a payout running to tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds.
How do I Find Out More?
It will cost you nothing to find out if a claim may be possible and, if it is, we can normally advise you on a no win, no fee basis, which means that there will be no charge for our services if your case is unsuccessful.