In recent weeks stories about sexual harassment have dominated newspaper front pages, with a flood of allegations about senior figures from the world of entertainment and politics.
It is quite clear of course that the problem isn’t confined to Hollywood studios or the corridors of Westminster. Previous research has suggested that half of women and around a fifth of men had experienced inappropriate behaviour either in the workplace or at their place of study.
The flurry of publicity should serve as a reminder to businesses to ensure that they don’t neglect the issue and, with Christmas party season just around the corner, it is vital to ensure that your business has taken all the necessary precautions.
It should be remembered that all employers have a responsibility for employees’ actions at any social event they have organised, even if it is taking place outside working hours and away from your premises. With this in mind, the annual Christmas party should be considered an extension of the workplace and a business could be held liable if an employee oversteps the mark by, for instance, making an unwanted pass at a colleague or making an offensive joke.
You should make sure you have a policy in place which sets out the standards of behaviour which will be expected at the event, makes clear that any misbehaviour will be dealt with through the usual disciplinary process and that your employees are aware of it.
An event with an abundance of alcohol increases the risk of a potentially problematic incident, so it might just be worth considering limiting the amount of free alcohol available. And for bosses it is generally sensible to remain sober, allowing you to intervene if a problem does arise.
Finally you should check arrangements to ensure staff are able to get home safely after the party is over and be careful that any entertainment you book for the evening isn’t likely to cause offence.
While no-one wants to be seen as a party-pooper, and you no doubt want your staff to enjoy themselves this Christmas, taking a few simple, but necessary, precautions reduces the risk of an incident which could ultimately be hugely damaging to both your business and individual members of staff.