Employers should act now to minimise the risk of sexual harassment issues at this year’s Christmas work party, a leading employment law consultant from Derry has said.
HR team director, Breda Cullen, is advising employers to ensure that each employee is made fully aware of the policies and procedures governing their behaviour at the annual work shindig.
She made the comments following the publication of an Irish Congress of Trade Union survey which found that one-in-five reports of sexual harassment centred on work-related social events. The survey also found that the Christmas party was the most common “off-site location” of workplace sexual harassment.
Ms Cullen said: “The findings of the ICTU survey regarding the reporting of sexual harassment during work social events such as the Christmas party may be shocking to many but will come as no surprise to HR professionals.
“Sexual harassment is the most prevalent claim brought to employment tribunal following work celebrations and parties.
“Employers are liable for the conduct of their staff during work parties and this responsibility applies to harassment on the grounds of gender, religion, age, disability, race and sexual orientation.
“Employers are best advised to avoid a Christmas jingle hell by outlining the rules and clearly communicating them to employees well in advance.
“The list of Instructions and guidelines detailed in a work-related social events policy will clearly set out expectations regarding standards on behaviour at the party.
“Employees should be reminded to adhere to the code of conduct governing the workplace when they attend the Christmas ‘do’ or any other event organised by their employers.
“It may seem a little ‘bah humbug’ amid the festivities but having a robust work-related social events policy which is clearly communicated to staff could save an employer a lot of stress and financial risk in the long run.”
Ms Cullen concluded: “Employers who have not already delivered this information to their staff ahead of this year’s festive celebrations are best advised to make it a priority to help ensure a merry Christmas for all.”
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