In Return to Work of South Australia v Valentine and Karrara Hair and Beauty Centre [2022] SAET 134, a recent decision of the Full Bench of the South Australian Employment Court, the Court considered circumstances of an injury sustained at the worker’s Christmas party, and whether it could be considered a work injury pursuant to section 7 of the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA) (“the Act”) (see here for an introduction to this provision).

The employer, a hairdressing salon, had arranged a weekend trip to Aldinga where the workers were supplied with accommodation, alcohol and a number of different activities were arranged. The employer invited all the workers to attend and was an opportunity for staff to “let their hair down”. [1]

The accommodation provided included a spa bath and during the course of the evening, the worker in question was using the spa bath with a number of colleagues. At a certain point in the evening, they were encouraged by their employer to exit the spa bath, and while doing so, the worker slipped on the tiles and broke her hip and leg. She then attempted to seek compensation pursuant to the Act. However, her claim was rejected on the basis that she did not sustain the injury out of or in the course of her employment, as she was not directed to attend the Christmas function.

The decision was disputed by the worker and the Court ultimately found that the worker had been encouraged to attend the Christmas party and participate in the activities arranged. In particular, the Court found that “Ms Valentine was directed to cease the activity in the spa bath and she acted in accordance with the direction given by her employer.”[2].

The Court was required to consider what the test is on whether an injury which occurs during a social activity, can be considered a work injury. They found that it is not whether the activity undertaken which caused the injury, was significantly similar to the workers usual duties, but whether the incident which caused the injury, could be considered reasonably contemplated by involvement in the activity.

What does this mean other workers?

While this case seemly extends the protection for workers to injuries suffered during a workers Christmas party, it does not automatically mean that all workers who suffer an injury at a work Christmas party are entitled to compensation. The Court will consider this issue on a case by case basis. If you consider that this may apply to you, contact our office on 08 8213 1000 to speak to one of our workers compensation experts.


[1] Return to Work of South Australia v Valentine and Karrara Hair and Beauty Centre [2022] SAET 134 [15]

[2] Return to Work of South Australia v Valentine and Karrara Hair and Beauty Centre [2022] SAET 134 [105].