Office Christmas Party and Sexual Harassment and Complaints in the Workplace – Top 4 Tips for HR

The Office Christmas Party (and other parties) during the silly season at the end of the calendar year means a very busy period for Employment Lawyers and the lawyers for employers, NB Employment Law in the early part of the year.


A myriad of complaints and relationships breakdown during this time in the workplace:

  • Something that was said in poor taste
  • Unprofessional and likely inebriated conduct
  • Unwelcome sexual innuendo and conduct
  • Comments made inappropriately covered in jest

Are just some of the reasons why there is an increase in:

  • workplace bullying claims
  • sexual harassment claims
  • workers compensation applications
  • general protections claims
  • disputes and complaints under policy and procedure
  • accusations of a criminal nature including assault.

For HR there is a fine line between understanding the risk and liability but also encouraging staff to celebrate a great year and leading into the Christmas holiday period. Here are 4 tips for HR.

Our Top Four (4) Tips For Employers

For employers planning (or have already planned) their Christmas party, keep in mind the following:

Tip 1 – Clarify The Scope Of The Event

  • Specify the hours which will constitute the ‘official’ work Christmas party. Any private arrangements between employees afterwards would not form part of the Christmas party. Employees bear their own risks when attending non-official events.
  • Ensure staff are reminded workplace policies will apply during the ‘official’ event.
  • If non-employees are attending (such as family members, guests or clients), consider reminding employees, in writing, of appropriate standards of behaviour.

Tip 2 – Conduct Refresher Training On Policies

  • If there is a code of conduct or appropriate behaviour policy in place, consider undertaking brief refresher training in advance of the Christmas party with employees.
  • Consider whether there are appropriate safeguards in place for pictures being taken by employees at the Christmas party. Think about whether you need to issue any directions to your employees to avoid posting inappropriate pictures of the Christmas party.
  • Emphasise any social media policies which are in place.
  • Ensure your senior employees are reminded of the need to supervise junior employees and display exemplary behaviour consistent with workplace policies.

Tip 3 – Have a sharp focus on Sexual Harassment

  • Ensure there is emphasis on your sexual harassment policies
  • The test for an Employer is – have they taken all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
    • Training will assist
    • Guidance around what is appropriate
  • Remember the intention of the offender does get taken into account the test is whether a reasonable person would find the comments, action, behaviour as:
    • Offensive or
    • Humiliating or
    • Intimidating

Tip 4 – Planning Ahead Of The Christmas Party

  • Inform employees who they can confidentially report their concerns to in the event of an incident at an office Christmas party. Be prepared to conduct an investigation at short notice.
  • If alcohol is being consumed, ensure employees are not drinking to an excess and increasing the risk of injuring themselves. Manage health and safety obligations such as by ensuring employees are provided with transportation.

As the lawyers for employers, we can provide HR with advice and assist in management training prior to and after an Office Christmas party. Should you require assistance with conducting training or dealing with an incident that has arisen at an Office Christmas party, please contact us to arrange an obligation free consultation on +61 (07) 3876 5111

Written By 

Jonathan Mamaril, Director

Jonathan Mamaril leads a team of handpicked experts in the areas of employment law and commercial law who focus on educating clients to avoid headaches, provide advice on issues before they fester and when action needs to be taken and there is a problem mitigate risk and liability. With a core value of helping first and providing practical advice, Jonathan is a sought after advisor to a number of Employers and as a speaker for forums and seminars where his expertise is invaluable as a leader in this area as a lawyer for employers.

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+61 (07) 3876 5111