Sleazy drunken Christmas parties are being blamed for a spike in workplace sexual harassment complaints being made in January, according to workplace advocates.
Experts say companies are failing to effectively train their staff about their legal obligations during work social events.
According to statistics from the the Australian Human Rights Commission, social events and functions are listed as the third most frequent location where workplace sexual harassment takes place.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said sexual harassment occurring at Christmas parties is happening far too often.
“During my legal career, advising large employers on workplace sexual harassment, we anticipated the Christmas spike each year,” she said.
Discrimination Claims sees increase in complaints
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Discrimination Claims, says his company always sees an increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints at this time of year.
“People have gone on holidays, maybe they’ve spoken to their family and friends about what happened, and are ready to report the behaviour when they start thinking about returning to work,” he said.
“It can be triggering for victims when they start thinking about having to confront their perpetrator in the office at the start of the new working year.”
The employment law expert also said the #MeToo movement has empowered victims to come forward and speak up about sexual harassment.
“That movement has really given women – and men – who have been sexually harassed in the workplace the courage to speak up,” he said.
Mr Heffernan encouraged anyone who had experienced sexual harassment to seek expert legal advice.
“There are time limitations that do apply, so that’s something to be aware of,” he said.
Under Australian law, sexual harassment claims need to be made within six months of the incident taking place.
National inquiry wants to hear from victims
Kate Jenkins encouraged Australians who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace to make a submission to the national survey.
She said more needs to be done to adequately train and inform workplaces of the occurrence of harassment.
“In our consultations for the national inquiry, we’ve heard similar stories of the heightened risk of sexual harassment when workers socialise informally at conferences and social events,” she said.
“That is not to say good policies and training are not important. They are very important, but without committed leadership and cultural reform, they do nothing.”
The deadline for submissions to the inquiry has been extended by a month to February 28.
To take part, click here.
If you have experienced sexual harassment, you may be entitled to compensation.
For help, please contact our team at Discrimination Claims on
1300 853 837
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