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Handling Sexual Harassment at Christmas

Christmas is-a-comin’ - and we all like to throw a good staff party. All too often, however, businesses just don’t understand the risks and liabilities they themselves run if sexual harassment occurs at a work function. The basic tips below should help to clear things up - and give some practical ideas to follow. Of course - you can always contact me - although I may need an invite to the party … just to make sure you’re doing everything properly :-)

1. Get everyone home safe! If you have had to send people home because they are drunk, or the night is just winding up - make sure there are enough transport options to get everyone home. 2. You’re not the ‘Fun Police’ - but employees should be aware this is a work function. Before the Christmas party, make sure all your employees are informed of the appropriate standard of behaviour expected of them. If you don’t have Policies and Procedures in place to define those behaviours, maybe NOW is a good time to get drafting. Any such policies should cover things like the responsible intake of alcohol at work functions. 3. Managers, in particular, need to be relied-upon as ‘champions’ of your Policies. While it’s a celebration for your managers as much as it is for the rest of your team, it’s worthwhile reminding your managers to act in a professional capacity during the evening and help to supervise the event. Managers and supervisors need to be trained to understand their responsibilities and obligations and can prepare themselves to deal with any issues that may arise. 4. Understand exactly what harassment is

  • Harassment can include if someone does any of the following:

  • Subjects someone to unwanted physical contact or gestures;

  • Asks intrusive questions, or subjects someone to insinuations about their private life;

  • Makes jokes or insinuations of a sexual nature;

  • Subjects someone to sex-based insults or taunts;

  • Inappropriately or repeatedly asks someone to go out with him or her;

  • Explicitly or implicitly demands to engage in sexual activity with someone;

  • Sends offensive communication of a sexual nature by means of a note, letter, telephone, computer, or by electronic mail or any other means; and,

  • If a person feels offended, humiliated or uncomfortable as a result, sexual harassment has occurred.

Finally - remember that this is a great time to recognise the performance of both Managers and Employees. So, make sure you take the opportunity to pass on some Christmas cheer.

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