Workplace sexual harassment is now a topic discussed more widely than it has ever been. Some Canadian companies are taking steps to prevent such incidents by being more aware and creating a harassment free environment in workspaces. Company holiday parties are coming under the scanner as they can be a place for potential inappropriate behaviour.
While there has been an increase in training related to sexual harassment and workspace behavior in every industry, experts claim that company holiday parties can be a one of the top places where such predatory behavior crops up thanks to the free flowing alcohol and laid back atmosphere.
There are many steps that a company can take to make its holiday party a safe place, while keeping the fun intact. Some options include say bye to the open bar and handing out drinks coupons to guests instead. Ensuring the coupons cannot be used by others also helps keep drinking to a minimum. Arranging transport from the party is also another way to keep tipsy employees safe at a small price.
Some companies are even going the no-alcohol route and organizing daytime holiday lunches instead. HR professionals have said they receive more sexual harassment complaints related to a holiday party than a regular working day. People can sometimes forget that while it is fun to hang out with colleagues, it is still a professional relationship, one HR expert said.
Lisa Friel Vice President, Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations at T&M Protection Resources, recently offered 5 tips on CNBC to help ensure that the office party stays free of sexual harassment.
Her first tip was to conduct a mandatory annual training on sexually inappropriate behavior, including what employees should do if they witness it scheduled close to the holidays.
Secondly, she added that employees should be reminded that they are expected to drink responsibly and that the manager or boss should prove to be an example.
Her third idea was to invite spouses to holiday parties as it helps curb reckless behavior. Another expert said that dancing should not be included in a holiday party unless spouses were invited.
Another option was to designate a alcohol-free senior employee to monitor the party. Lastly she stressed on how companies should bring in experts if complaints of harassment come up and not deal with such issues lightly.