*The contents in this blog relates to legislation in New South Wales.

Generally speaking an injury, sustained at an office Christmas party will be covered by workers compensation under the NSW scheme.

However, that is not always true. For example, if the injury results due to excessive alcohol consumption then it may not be covered. If the claim is denied by the insurer, then the Personal Injury Commission will need to closely examine the circumstances surrounding the injury.

The claim may be denied on the basis that the injury arose due to serious and wilful misconduct (where alcohol or drug use is involved), and/or that it did not arise in the course of the worker’s employment.

The 2014 case of Collins v Signature Blend Pty Ltd is an example of an insurer successfully defending a claim for injuries sustained in the context of a Christmas function. Mr Collins sustained injury after falling from his home balcony. Earlier in the day, he had attended a work functioned at a licensed venue and later joined at his home by co-workers to continue celebrating.

Mr Collins suffered serious injuries in the fall, and his claim was denied by the insurer.

Arbitrator Haddock determined that Mr Collins was not entitled to compensation. In arriving at this decision, the Arbitrator  reasoned that Mr Collins employer had not induced him to continue the party at his apartment. It was also found that Mr Collins state of intoxication, which had not been encouraged by his employer, contributed to the fall.

The decision was upheld on appeal.

Cases of this nature are not clear cut, and require a careful consideration of all the relevant facts. Anyone who has sustained an injury in the context of participating in a work Christmas function should seek legal advice.

Depending on the circumstances of the injury, another claim may also be available such as a claim against the venue under the Civil Liability Act in addition to the employer.