In our Infoflash of 11 December 2014, we analysed the social and tax aspects of an office drinks reception or a dinner party at a restaurant organized by the employer.
Now we will handle two other questions that may come up at the occasion of such staff parties: staff party = working time? And what to do in the event of an accident?
Staff party = working time?
To determine whether the time spent at the staff party should be considered as working time and therefore should be paid as such, a number of factors must be taken into account. On the one hand, the time of day at which the drinks reception is held should be taken into account. On the other hand, it must be considered whether or not the worker is obliged to attend the party.
If the worker attends a staff party that is held during the normal working hours, the time spent at this party should be counted as working time. Whether the worker is obliged to be present or not, is of no importance. When a worker, who is not obliged to be present at the party, does not want to attend, he should continue to work. If he wants to leave work, he must take a day off in agreement with his employer.
The party, however, can also take place outside normal working hours. In that case, the employer must equate the hours spent at the drinks reception with working time (this will account for overtime if applicable) but only if the worker was obliged to be present. Otherwise, the time the worker spent at the party cannot be counted as working time.
And what to do in the event of an accident?
Any employer who employs staff, must in principle take out an insurance policy covering industrial accidents. The insurer must reimburse, within certain limits, the damage suffered by the worker who had an accident at work.
Pursuant to the industrial accidents act, an industrial accident is understood to mean every accident that occurred to a worker during the performance of the employment contract and that caused an injury.
The accident occurs during the performance of the contract if the worker, at the time of the accident, is under the (at least virtual) authority of the employer.
In general, the labour courts assume that the worker was involved in an industrial accident when this took place during a party that was organized by the employer (or at least with his permission) and to which the worker was invited.
The compulsory or optional nature of attending the festivities and the time of day at which the party takes place (during or outside normal working hours) have no effect.
It also does not matter whether the party is held at the office or outside (e.g. in a restaurant or a venue that was hired for the occasion).
These rules apply in case of an accident at the party. They also apply in case of an accident that takes place on the road to and from the place of the party.
The worker who suffered an accident that occurred at a staff party or on the road to or from the party, may, under these conditions receive an industrial accidents compensation from the insurer. However, such a compensation will be refused when the accident is the result of a deliberate error by the worker. This means that he intentionally caused the accident, without, however, having wanted or foreseen the consequences.
Auteur: Catherine Legardien