December – the month of Christmas, and of X-mas parties, but also the beginning of the skiing season. Let’s examine more closely what view the law and the courts take of injuries sustained by staff at these events organized by the employer – are they a “private problem” of the given employee, or do they qualify as a work accident?
From the vantage point of the law, a “work accident” is any damage to the health of an employee which occurred independent of the employee’s will, due to the temporary, sudden, and violent impact of external forces within the context of (or in connection with) the discharge of work duties. At first glance, grinding away on the dancefloor at the company Christmas party or hitting the slopes on a skiing trip alongside one’s colleagues does not appear to qualify as the discharge of work duties or a directly related activity. It would therefore be fair to say that any injury sustained as a consequence of these pursuits cannot very well qualify as a work accident. However, this conclusion is not necessarily always true.
When determining whether or not an injury sustained at the Christmas party of the skiing trip of the employer counts as work accident, one must establish whether the event in question was a teambuilding event or merely an (employer-sponsored) “entertainment or leisure-time activity”.
Teambuilding generally means an intensive and goal-oriented attempt to build and develop the working potential of individual teams of staff members, with a particular stress on deepening motivation and mutual trust and improving performance and communication between team members. If an employee sustains injuries while attending an event which was organized by the employer with the goal to build and develop the team, then these injuries will most likely qualify as a work accident – unless alcohol played a role and the employee got injured in a state of intoxication.
Another possibility is that the employee was one of the hosts at the party of a key-account client. If the employee was asked to attend the party within a professional context, then their attendance at the party was a part of their job duties, and the injury therefore qualifies as a work accident.
A similar conclusion (which is borne out by the case law of the Supreme Court) applies to injuries sustained during a skiing trip which the employer organized – not as a teambuilding event for its own staff, but for customers of the employer, with a view to strengthening their business relations, whereas the injured employee was tasked with looking after their clients even “on the slope”.
Labor Code (Act No. 262/2006 Coll.)