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Are we liable if a non-employee is injured at one of our company's social events?

Q: I am writing to seek your advice around our social club and activities.

We run an optional social club at work, where the employee contributes $2.50 per week per person they want to bring along (normally $5 for them and a partner), our company then matches their donation equally.

We have conducted numerous events throughout the years, and as of late we are starting to do more family friendly events, involving the growing number of children throughout the company.

If a non-employee gets hurt at one of these activities - who is liable? Each person has joined the club on a voluntary basis, they attend the events on a voluntary basis, they also sign a waiver (at the event) generally protecting the venue, but within that waiver they agree that they are liable for their own actions.

A: In relation to your question regarding your obligations as an employer with respect to social functions organised through work, you will continue to owe a duty of care for your workers and other guests at such work-related functions. This means that your business will be liable for an injury that occurs at the function, whether it relates to an employee, their child or another family member.

You should be aware that the Courts have found employers liable where accidents occur at social functions organised through work, even though the function was not work as such.

We suggest you also review Chapter M2 – Managing Work-Related Functions, and particularly the Waiver Form and Guidelines for Offside Work Functions templates.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Work functions for current advice.

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