From the Commissioner - Staying sensible during the silly season
What a year 2018 has been! If everyone’s workplace has been as busy as mine, then I’m sure there will be a lot of people with a lot to celebrate at their end of year functions this year.
End of year functions are often an opportunity for colleagues to enjoy some downtime together and relax after a busy year working as a team.
However, they should be events that every team member can enjoy which means all staff should remain aware their behaviour.
Although a staff party is often outside the office, the same codes of conduct should apply.
It is worth keeping in mind that for the purpose of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, office parties are still considered work.
This means unwelcome physical touching, hugging or kissing, staring or leering at someone or at parts of their body, suggestive comments or jokes, insults or taunts based on sex, sexually explicit pictures, e-mails or text messages and intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body at an office party could be unlawful sexual harassment.
Work parties can be perceived as social events where people aren’t obligated to behave as they would in the office.
For the last three years the Commission has noticed a spike in sexual harassment complaints during the month of March, which follows the ‘silly season’.
The Commission during this financial year has already seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints, following national Australian Human Rights Commission consultations into workplace sexual harassment and the global #MeToo movement.
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for all staff at work and at work functions and there can be no greater commitment to being a ‘team player’ than if you report unlawful behaviour during the ‘silly season’ which threatens to undermine how your office works as a team going into the new year.