Sexual Harassment at the Christmas Party

Sexual Harassment

First of all where did 2018 go?  Christmas is just round the corner and its that time of year for celebrating with work colleagues, hence, the office party is on the horizon.  Statistics state that around 52% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work.  The Christmas Party can present a daunting prospect?

Workplace parties and events are notorious for facilitating unwelcome sexual attention and predatory behaviours, predominantly from male colleagues. Over the past few years, there have been a number of high profile sexual harassment cases come to light such as the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case.

One in five of calls to the Equal Opportunities helpline are about complaints of sexual harassment, with 40% of complainants being male.  This is despite the widely perceived perception that women are the usual victims.

The introduction of alcohol changes the perspective of employees who might behave impeccably whilst sober and at work.  It is a known fact that alcohol affects our judgement and inability to rationalise our behaviour.  Hence, this results in blurred boundaries (as well as our sight) and wrongful actions occurring.

Duty of Care

Do employers really need a policy on workplace social events?  The simple answer is YES.

Employers have a duty of care towards staff and need to have relevant and sustainable policies in place that will deliver best practice both in and out of work.

As a result, it’s advisable to issue a communication to staff to remind them that the Christmas party is an extension of the workplace and their conduct should reflect that.

The communication must be aligned with the following company policies to ensure employees are aware of their boundaries:

Furthermore, whilst you can prepare and train staff, it’s difficult to control behaviour at the party itself. An option would be to ban alcohol, which is likely to stop half of your employees from attending.

Therefore, there is a balance between being a Christmas kill joy and allowing a free for all but it’s still possible to have fun as long as staff are prepared and trained.

At the end of the day, employees are adults and are expected to behave as such.  In addition, there is a need to respect each others’ boundaries whilst still enjoying the spirit of the season.

How to avoid the Christmas party crisis  – Some key tips:

1.      Ensure staff are aware of the company policy on harassment , equality and diversity

2.      Issue a communication regarding your codes of conduct in relation to the policies and the impending Christmas party.

3.      Make staff aware of the consequences of inappropriate behaviour and how it would be dealt with.

4.      If you see an altercation occurring at the party – have a quiet word in the ear of the person who potentially could be the harasser.  This can prevent a situation from crossing the line into something more serious.

5.      Follow up from the word in the ear in office hours to ensure that there are no concerns arising from the situation.

6.      Remove any mistletoe so there is no temptation for lecherous lunging in an office.

Have a great Christmas – event free!!!!!

For more information on how to avoid sexual harassment and equality issues at work contact us on 0845 6182879.  Alternatively you can look at our website regarding coaching and training courses. Find us at