Newsletter Employment Law Smart News 03 Nov 2021

Company events, team building, leisure activities – is it all work-related?

More than 800,000 occupational accidents occur every year. In Germany, special insurance coverage is provided through statutory accident insurance. Their mandate is to use all appropriate means to reintegrate the injured employee into working life as quickly as possible. This includes special curative treatments, but also injury compensation or accident pensions. The benefits are regularly better than those of the usual health insurance.

Employees therefore have a keen interest in qualifying accidents in connection with their professional activities as occupational accidents. This can be particularly problematic if the accident does not occur in the course of their regular professional activity, but e.g. during business trips or leisure activities in the context of a meeting arranged on official business.

The managing director who invites clients of the company in the US to a skiing event and breaks his leg in the process does not suffer an occupational accident (Regional social Court of Hesse of 14.8.2020 – L 9 U 188/18); nor does a senior engineer of an international group in the field of bio-medical technology who falls with a Segway during a team-building meeting of several executives of the group (Regional social Court of Hesse of 29.03.2021 – L 3 U 157/18).

Such decisions are always surprising, since the activities obviously have a close relation to the work and are not purely leisure activities. However, the courts are careful not to arbitrarily extend insurance coverage to occupational accidents that are only indirectly related to official work.

Accidents at a joint company event are basically occupational accidents, but if the foreign parent company hosts the event and not all of the employees or at least all of the employees in a particular department of the German subsidiary take part, the situation may be assessed differently. In the case of business trips, case law also distinguishes whether these are “interrupted” by certain leisure activities – even if participation in them is expected by the employer – with the consequence that corresponding accidents are then no longer occupational accidents.

The sufferers of this very case-by-case jurisprudence are usually the employees, who do not enjoy the better insurance cover in such cases. However, employers must also pay attention to whether and when they want to oblige their employees to participate in certain leisure activities.

In order to avoid recourse liability towards employees, they should at least be informed about any lack of insurance cover.