At office parties, alcohol is usually served and consumed. The raising of a glass on the ending
of the old year or beginning of the new year (or any other occasion) is usually part of it.
But what if at a certain moment, an employee had one too much and is not able to react
adequately and causes an accident or damage?
Who is responsible, the employee or the employer? Are you obliged to intervene as an
As an employer (and employee) you better be prepared and be vigilant for a number of things, so
that a party remain a party for everyone.
1. Alcohol policy – Don’t forget CLA 100
In principle, every employer is obliged to establish a preventive alcohol and drug policy. This
does not only apply to the employees, who are related to the employer through an employment
agreement but also to other persons treated as such, like students and interns (applicants and
external service providers are excluded).
100 creates a minimal framework that must be met for such a policy. The employer himself must fill
in the rest taking into consideration the culture, the size and the needs of the enterprise. In a
nutshell, as an employer you have the ultimate responsibility. Elements such as the basic
princoples, the goals and the policy statements, including practical measures must be made part of
the working regulation.
While establishing such a global policy, it is in your interests as an employer to devote a
section to "office parties" and "special occasions".
2. What in case of an accident at work?
An accident on the way to or from a staff party is never excluded. However, other accidents can
quickly happen at a staff party as well, for example on the dance floor, accidents caused by some
object or by another employee.
If an employee suffers a physical injury at a staff party, you, as an employer, will be held
Regarding the question if an accident is qualified as an accident at work (occupational
accident) when the employee suffers from a physical injury on his way home, there exists a debate
within case law. The qualification remains a question of facts: was the employee drunk? Did the
employee go home right away after the party?
The venue and the (point in) time of the party do not matter. Mostly, according to case law,
attending a staff party is equated as "work performance" on the basis of a number of
cumulative criteria such as the fact that the party is paid by the employer, existence of a moral
pressure to attend the party, the employer’s authority during the party and the fact that
supervisory staff is present as well.
Employers should consider this when organising a party for their employees. Therefore, should
you as an employer desire to organise an office party, it is advisable to explicitly and clearly
communicate beforehand that the employer cannot be held liable for any activity after the party.
3. What else can you do as an employer?
3.1 Besides the establishment of a preventive alcohol and drugs policy, you can take other
beneficial measures to encourage your employees to keep the use of alcohol under control, by for
- Making reference to the alcohol policy in the invitation to the party;
- In advance, making your employees aware of the consequences of excessive alcohol use at the
workplace and beyond;
- Reducing the number of alcohol units (or by not serving any alcohol at all);
- The use of skilled servicing staff who can react properly when someone crosses the
- Ensuring that there are sufficiently non-alcoholic drinks (and not only at the bar);
- Ensuring that there is enough food so the employees do not only consume alcohol;
- Providing with non-committal alcohol tests at departure;
3.2 Besides the limitation of alcohol use, you can take also following measures as an
In the first place, you can monitor (or have monitored) in order to detect if any staff members
have consumed too much alcohol.
Besides a preventive alcohol policy, take other appropriate measures as well…
Furthermore, you can provide with suitable transport (carpool, call upon specialised
organisations such as “Responsible Young Drivers”, shuttle busses, and likewise) in case your
employees have consumed too much alcohol than allowed. Eventually, a cost of a taxi does not
outweigh the cost of potential damaging consequences and prevents you from being held
As an employer, you must also not forget that you can be held liable for material damages caused
by an employee. Only in case of fraud, severe fault and light fault that occur with the employee on
a habitual basis than by accident, the employee will have to repay the damage himself.
3.3 Lastly, as an employer, you can (explicitly) state that the presence at the party is not
mandatory (free of obligations) and you can limit the party time by indicating a starting and
Please contact us if you have any questions.