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The Christmas Party and Sexual Harassment

Christmas parties…a time when you have a laugh, a few drinks and are more than likely to wake up the next day with regrets. Oh, how I miss the non-hangover days. The 21st of December is likely to be the height of festive workplace cheer as everyone charges for the nearest bar come 5 o’clock.

But despite all the fun and games, Christmas parties can occasionally have a much darker side.

In recent years the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault has been sweeping the globe. It’s main aim is to show prevalence and to show other individuals going through the same thing that they are not alone. It has not only risen awareness in general but has also highlighted the some of those ‘innocent’ work party events are actually sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. 

Wandering hands, “best arse” award, being cornered for being too hot to be in the technical team or sharing a taxi home to only proposition four times with an unwelcomed offer of sex. These all too common events mean with the festive season in full swing it’s important we look out for one another and more importantly prevent such things happening before they do - particularly during Christmas parties. 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Limit the Amount of Alcohol

We all like a drink…don’t we? And for most part, this addition of alcohol allows us to lose our inhibitions.

However, companies have been quick to learn that there is a worrying trend of the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely they are to be dealing with allegations. Many have been instilling happy hour policy opposed to open bars in order to address this.

So, a good idea is to try and limit the consumption during Christmas dos. I’m not saying have a dry Christmas as let’s be honest, no one wants that but limit the amount of jagerbombs…your pounding head will thank me in the morning. 

‘Keep-An-Eye’

I don’t know about you, but when I’m out with friends we generally try and stick together. Sure, you always get the odd one wandering to the bar and another the toilets but just try and keep a general eye on everyone’s behaviour. That way, you’ll be feeling more relaxed and know someone’s got your back.

The same goes for the work Christmas party, be sure to have the people around you that you want to enjoy your time with and do not feel that you must dance with the random guy from IT. This way, you can keep your eyes peeled for wandering hands and people not respecting personal space. Doing this means you can nip stuff in the bud before it gets worse.

However, there have been reports that businesses are taking this one stage further by discreetly employing people to keep watch on behalf of the company. Essentially teachers at the school disco!  

Walk Away

As frustrating as it is, often other people perceive body language completely different to what we are giving off. Just because we are having a laugh does not mean we are flirting. Just because I’m looking great in my outfit doesn’t mean you should make inappropriate comments. If you feel like the conversation is taking a bad turn or being interpreted incorrectly just walk away. If the problem persists- tell someone.

At the end of the day, the Christmas party is being seen as an extension of the office. It is important for all employees to remember this, as normal workplace rules on conduct including sexual harassment will apply and disciplinary action is sure to be strictly enforced.

Aftermath

We have all been there, had a few too many drinks and made questionable decisions while under the influence. That being said, singing at the top of your lungs to ABBA and whacking out your best ‘Dad moves’ is nothing to be ashamed of- and there’s no need for drastic action.

Yet in some cases, it seems necessary for employees to be dismissed from work following their actions- as silly or serious as they may be. Anything from throwing up on your boss to sexually assaulting a colleague. These are cut and dry for the human resource department.

However, there are many cases including sexual harassment where it can be difficult to prove allegations completely. These events can lead to a toxic environment in the workplace has divisions within the workforce believe something had happened.

This has seen a rise in companies attempting to resolve the issues for those involved by offering the option to move to another branch, settlement agreements or the chance to resign.

Sounds scary, but don’t let all this put you off going to Christmas parties. A few small changes should make for a harassment free Christmas party.

So, put on your sequin dress and heels, get your Secret Santa at the ready and enjoy yourselves! 

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