Accident insurance cover applied during departmental Christmas celebration without management

The Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) decided on 05 July 2016 (Az.: B 2 U 19/14 R) that participation in a works communal event is also covered by accident insurance cover if it is carried out by the management of the subject area. Contrary to former case law, personal participation of management is no longer necessary in order for an event to be recognised as an operational communal event.
By an official discussion in which the head of department took part it was decided that in 2010 – as in previous years – the employees could hold internal Christmas celebrations in working hours (beginning at 12 o’clock at the earliest and to be documented by time recording). The office manager had to announce the date and start time. The participants received a time credit at the rate of 10% of weekly working hours.
The manager of the department announced the event and invited all employees in the department. After drinking coffee together in the office, the ten people participating, including the department manager, went for a walk during which the plaintiff slipped and incurred injuries. The defendant refused to recognise the accident as an accident at work. The Social Court (Sozialgericht) did not accept this. It found that the accident was an accident at work. On the appeal of the defendant, the Higher Social Court (Landessozialgericht) set aside the judgment of the Social Court (Sozialgericht) and dismissed the action.
The Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) agreed with the plaintiff and considered the event to be a work accident. According to consistent case-law, participation in a works communal event would be insured, as long as the event takes place in agreement with the management. For such an agreement it is sufficient if the head of department agrees in an official discussion with the respective managers of the departments that the respective departments may organise Christmas celebrations and other conditions (beginning, time credit etc.) are established. These agreements as a whole – practised for many years – sufficiently demonstrate that the celebrations of the single departments would have taken place in the agreement with the management.
Furthermore, the court decided that the personal participation of management, which was a criterion previously, is no longer necessary. Works communal events are protected by the statutory accident insurance because they promote the working atmosphere and strengthen the cohesion of the employees as long as it is possible for all employees to take part at the celebrations. It does not depend on the actual number of participants.