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Volleyball injury: CEO encouraged worker to play

The employee was found to be eligible for workers compensation.
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Volleyball injury: CEO encouraged worker to play

Volleyball injury: CEO encouraged worker to play

20 May 2020

A local government employee was found to be eligible for workers compensation after being injured in a volleyball match. The employer sent an email encouraging all employees to play, so the fact that the injured employee volunteered to play (as distinct from being told to) didn’t matter for workers compensation purposes.

Facts of case

The match was part of a tournament hosted each year by one of the local government councils in Adelaide. The employee fell during the match and tore a ligament in his left knee, which was likely to require reconstruction.

A work colleague responsible for organising the teams had several times requested him to play, and he eventually agreed.

The employer denied liability for the injury, claiming that it occurred during a sporting/social event that was not conducted “at the direction or request of the employer”. It also claimed that:
  • His participation was voluntary. The employer merely distributed the invitations to play, but did not request employees to do so and it was up to them to volunteer if they wished.
  • The Council did not organise the event, it did not happen on its premises, and the employer gained no benefit from employees taking part.
  • The co-worker who asked him to play was not in a position of authority over him.


A full bench of the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) found in favour of the employee, for the following reasons:
  • The annual tournament benefited both employers and employees, and players officially represented their employers.
  • The employer supported the event both directly and indirectly. It paid for uniforms and registration fees and gave permission for employees to be approached to play.
  • The employee was approached to play several times over three weeks – this went beyond merely “issuing an invitation”. He was asked to take part.
  • The acting CEO had sent an email that encouraged employees to play “in collective terms implying a joint enterprise” and that claimed it was an opportunity for employees to get to know each other better. The employee agreed to play shortly after receiving it.

Overall, it was reasonable for the employee to assume that the employer had requested him to play. A request in this context could be either express or implied. The basic test was how a “sensible and reasonable-minded employee” would perceive it.

The insurer appealed against this decision, and the appeal rested on interpretation of the scope of a “request”.

The tribunal found that it meant whether, in all the circumstances, the employer made a request to the employee to take part in a social or sporting activity. In this case, the request had come from the highest level (acting CEO), so the employer had actively encouraged the employee to play. This overrode the facts that the employee’s decision was voluntary and that there would be no adverse consequences for declining to play.

The bottom line: This was more than a social event organised by work colleagues. The employer supported the event, gave permission for invitations to employees to be issued, and the players represented the employer. Therefore, it was at the “request and direction of the employer”. Those factors provided sufficient connection to employment for employees injured during matches to be covered by workers compensation.

Read the judgment

Local Government Association Workers Compensation Scheme v Rizovski [2020] SAET 85, 12 May 2020

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