In brief – Employers must take steps to prevent
harassment incidents at Christmas parties
With the silly season upon us, it is important to assess whether
your organisation is taking appropriate steps to prevent potential
incidents of sexual harassment from occurring at work functions.
While organisations may assume that everyone understands the issue
and knows what constitutes inappropriate behaviour, recent research
How prevalent is harassment in Australian workplaces?
Surprisingly, despite increased public awareness about sexual
harassment, the report suggests there is an increasing incidence of
sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. Has progress in
addressing sexual harassment in the workplace stalled?
Most likely targets of harassment and most likely
In terms of who is being harassed, the report suggests that
targets of sexual harassment are most likely to be women of less
than 40 years of age, with the majority being between 18 - 24 years
of age. Men harassing women accounted for 56% of reported sexual
harassment while male harassment of men accounted for 23% of sexual
Harassers were most likely to be a co-worker of the person
harassed (52%), followed by their boss or employer (11%) and their
supervisor or manager (11%).
What is harassment?
The most common types of behaviour reported were sexually
suggestive comments, offensive jokes and intrusive questions. These
were reported to occur in person as well through the use of
technology, including social media.
Other behaviours reported include:
unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing
inappropriate staring or leering
repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out on dates
repeated or inappropriate advances on email, social networking
websites or internet chat rooms by a work colleague
sexual gestures, indecent exposure or inappropriate display of
sexually suggestive comments or jokes
sexually explicit pictures, posters or gifts that were
sexually explicit emails or text messages
Effect on workplace witnesses as well as victims
The AHRC survey suggests that regardless of its size or
industry, no workplace is immune from sexual harassment, noting
that a hostile work environment can be created not just by
experiencing sexual harassment personally, but also by witnessing
and hearing about sexual harassment occurring in the workplace.
Three tips to prevent harassment claims arising from Christmas
Ensure managers have recently received training on what
constitutes sexual harassment
Prior to a work function, send out an email to staff reminding
them of the expectation that they conduct themselves in a manner
consistent with the organisation's policies at work
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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