In brief

3 min read


The Full Court of the Federal Court has confirmed that to determine whether an employee’s injury arose out of or in the course of their employment, the full circumstances of the injury must be taken into account, including the ‘place’ at which the injury occurred and the ‘activity’ undertaken at the time.1

In this case, despite the employee being in a place at the request of her employer, by engaging in a personal activity she broke the nexus with her employment and so the injury was not compensable.

Key takeaways

Employers should:

  • carefully consider the activities that they expressly or impliedly encourage or permit their employees to engage in, especially when the employee is away from their usual workplace; and
  • ensure that there are policies and procedures in place that set out the expected behaviours of employees when they are attending work-related functions and working away from their usual workplace.

Background

Ms Dring was on a work trip, staying at a hotel organised and paid for by her employer, Telstra. After more than eight hours of socialising and drinking with a friend, Ms Dring returned to the hotel, where she slipped and fell in the reception area at approximately 2:30am.

Decision

There was no dispute that Telstra required Ms Dring to stay at the hotel. However, Ms Dring’s mere presence at the hotel was not sufficient for her injury to be compensable. Instead, the court also considered the activity Ms Dring was engaged in at the time of the injury.

The court observed that it was reasonable for Ms Dring to attend a post-workshop dinner and had she injured herself after returning to the hotel at 8:30pm the connection between her employment and the injury may have been maintained. However, the extent and duration of her personal activity broke the connection with her employment.

This decision confirms that an injury sustained by an employee when they are engaged in a personal activity is less likely to be compensable than an injury sustained during an activity organised, encouraged or permitted by the employer, such as after-work drinks.