Weekly Employment Update - 27th July 2011Wednesday 27th July 2011
A staff fun day is not "in the course of employment" for the purposes of Health and Safety legislation
Welcome to the Ashfords' Weekly Employment Update, where each week we consider recent developments in Employment and HR issues. This week, we consider the potential health and safety issues that could arise from staff social events.
A firm's fun day at a country park ended in tragedy for one employee who suffered head injuries after falling from his bike in a cycle race. The employee was not wearing a helmet. The partners from the firm who organised the event were found to be liable for negligence for failing to assess the risks of the race properly, and failing to insist that cycle helmets were worn by participants. Liability was reduced to reflect the employee's own negligence in failing to wear a helmet.
The employee failed, however, to convince the Court that the cycle race was "at work" or "in the course of employment" for the purposes of establishing liability under Health & Safety legislation. The court held that where an employee was taking advantage of his employer's hospitality it offended reasonableness to think that Health & Safety legislation would apply in such circumstances.
Although this case makes it clear that staff social events will not usually be classed as an activity "in the course of employment" for the purposes of Health & Safety legislation, it is also a reminder to employers that staff outings and fun days need to be properly assessed for risk. Activities on offer should be risk-assessed by experts.
As a reminder, under the law of harassment, employers can still be liable for harassment of their employees at staff social events.
Reynolds v Strutt-Parker LLP (2011)