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December 23, 2016

Christmas parties - employers' vicarious liability

Vicarious liability often arises in employment relationships. In this circumstance it would mean that an employer is liable for the wrongdoing of an employee if there is a sufficient connection between the wrongs and the employee's employment. It does not matter that the employer itself has not committed a wrong. 

Vicarious liability therefore often arises in a works Christmas parties. 

The question has now arisen as to whether an employer is vicariously liable for injuries caused by an employee after a works Christmas party. The court have held that the employers are not. 

The question arose following an assault of an employee by another employee following a Christmas party. The assault occurred during an 'after-party' in a hotel. The question must be asked whether the assault had occurred when the employee was acting in the course of his employment? If it was in the course of employment then the employer would be responsible. 

The court held that if the assault had occurred during the works Christmas party then the employer would be responsible. However, due to the assault occurring during the 'after-party' then the employer was not liable. A line could clearly be drawn between the works Christmas party and the 'after-party'. 

It was also taken into consideration the extent to which the employment relationship was responsible for putting the employee at risk of injury at the relevant time. It is reasonable to assume that alcohol consumption increased the risk of confrontation, however it was noted that the Christmas party itself had passed without incident. 

The employment team at Greenaway Scott are more than happy to assist in any employment matters such as vicarious liability. Please contact us at employment@greenawayscott.com 

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