Liability for an injury during a workplace sport or wellbeing activity

Wellbeing activities such as sports and social events are increasing as their contributions to workplace morale and health are becoming more recognised.

While the benefits of these activities are established, they also extend an employer’s liability for injury and it can be difficult for an employer to know what they are responsible for.

This short guide is designed to help you, the employer, know when you might be liable for an injury during a wellbeing activity.

Discovering liability

There is no hard and fast rule that can define if you are liable for a wellbeing activity, instead a combination of factors must be considered:

Is it during work hours?

If the activity is during work hours then it is likely within the scope of the workplace’s liability. This must be distinguished from an activity occurring between two discrete pieces of work, for example a shift worker getting tennis lessons in-between shifts.

Is it sponsored or supported by the employer?

If the workplace is sponsoring or supporting the activity then they may be liable for it. Support can be defined through donations, allowing time off, or encouraging it in any way. For example, an email chain notifying staff of an event could be viewed as support, and deem the employer liable.

In this respect, even a weekend soccer game could be considered the employer’s liability if the company supports it through donations, or perhaps managing sign-ups.

Where is the activity occurring?

If it is on premises then it is likely that liability extends to the activity. An example might be bringing a trainer in to run a fitness class.

It is important to note that liability may not extend if the employee's conduct is abnormal (so no backflips) or they engage in wilful misconduct.

Managing Liability

If you are supporting an activity, below are some easy methods to keep it safe.

Set the ground rules

Let everyone know what is considered acceptable behaviour, and who is in charge. This can be done by email, and reinforced with a meeting prior to the event.

Safety first

Make sure that the site is prepared and that all necessary equipment is available. If it is off-site, ensure that it is safe, and enquire about any venue insurance or safety requirements.

Be aware of unofficial activities

If you notice an activity you don’t support (like lunchtime soccer in the carpark), make it clear that it is not supported.

Consider a Waiver

A liability waiver is a document that outlines liability for an injury.

While a waiver cannot exclude statutory or common law rights, and will not automatically preclude an injured worker from being entitled to a claim in statutory workers compensation schemes, they can be useful as a way of indicating the expected range of behaviours, and the agreed intention of the employee.

For more information read our article on liability waivers.

Play Safe

With this in mind, don’t be afraid to support and sponsor events. Hosting things such as yoga, cooking classes and team sporting events can have great benefits on health and flow-on effects on productivity.

Physical activity can improve morale and reduce stress and fatigue. Team events and learning exercises can also be great for bonding. This will positively improve productivity and quality of work, and leave everyone happy and healthy.

Healthy employees make a healthy business. GB’s Health and Wellbeing Program can support your organisation to take a proactive and preventative approach to improving the health and wellbeing of your employees. Follow this link to find out more.

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This publication is not intended to offer legal advice or client-specific risk management advice. General descriptions contained herein do not include complete definitions, terms, and/or conditions, and should not be relied on for claims management interpretation. Actual claims and risk management policies must always be consulted for full coverage details and analysis.

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