We’ve all heard the saying ‘if you wouldn’t say it to your mother, don’t say it at all.’ The same principal applies to office Christmas parties.
Christmas parties are a fun time for organisations to celebrate another year passed. However they are a minefield for sexual harassment lawsuits.
Nearly one in five complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) relate to sexual harassment. The vast majority of these take place in the workplace¹. Remember an official company Christmas party is a workplace!
What can employers do?
- The federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, highlights the need to “set the ground rules early.” Organisations need to communicate what behaviours will and will not be tolerated via staff meetings, staff newsletters, intranet or email.
- Consider specific staff training in the months leading up to Christmas; focusing on what constitutes sexual harassment and discrimination. Consider separate training for managers so that they are aware of their responsibilities and are better equipped to deal with any problems, should they arise.
- Emphasise the responsible consumption of alcohol and ensure there is adequate food for staff.
- Consider a lunchtime event or make it a family affair by allowing partners and kids to attend. In addition be very clear about the start and end time for the party.
- Consider supplying cab vouchers or ensure there is adequate public transport from the venue.
Employees can also help
- Limit the amount you drink². Remember a range of factors can influence an individual’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), such as body size, age, level of fitness, liver health, gender and medication.
- Plan your trip home; have a designated driver or ask a friend to pick you up.