Employers should act to avoid Christmas party sexual harassment claims

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Employers should act now to minimise the risk of sexual harassment issues at this year’s Christmas work party, says HR Team Director, Breda Cullen.

Ms Cullen is advising employers to ensure employees are made fully aware of the policies and procedures regarding behaviour at the annual Christmas work celebrations.

Her followed the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s publication of a survey which found 20% of reports of sexual harassment arose from work-related social events. The survey further found Christmas work parties were the most common ‘off-site location’ sexual harassment at work.

Ms Cullen told Irish media: “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. 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.”


Among the key findings of the survey from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are:


  • 81% of respondents did not report the unwanted sexual behaviour to their employer.
  • 2% of respondents (27) reported being seriously sexually assaulted or rape at work.
  • 54% reported that the harasser had been a colleague.
  • 23% reported receiving unwanted messages with material of a sexual nature by email, text or over social media from colleagues.
  • 17% have been exposed to pornographic images or drawings in the workplace.
  • 15% reported experiencing unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them.
  • 41% reported receiving unwelcome verbal sexual advances in the workplace.
  • 37% have been subject to unwelcome comments of a sexual nature about their body or clothes.
  • 34% were subject to unwelcome questions or comments about their sex life.
  • 20% of sexual harassment reported in the survey related to work-related social events

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