How to organise respectful work parties during the winter season

During the winter season many of us will be attending events organised by our employers to celebrate the holiday season. These events give us the opportunity to socialise with work colleagues, but can become a subject of work assault and discrimination.

As a law firm, but also as colleagues and friends, we care about the wellbeing of our colleagues and clients and we would like to explain what can be defined as harassment or assault and how you can help prevent it.

What is classed as harassment?

Harassment is when an individual acts in a way which makes you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or intimidated. You can be subject to harassment when you’re at home, at work or in a public place. Under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is unlawful when the unwanted conduct is related to:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Gender reassignment

Is harassment the same as assault?

Whilst harassment may be illegal in the context of your employment, it may not necessarily be classed as illegal under criminal law. Assault is a criminal offence that is committed against another person and occurs when a person is the victim of intentional physical contact without consent.

The consumption of alcohol or casual atmospheres may relax boundaries to such an extent that discriminatory and uncomfortable comments or jokes may be made, even if not intended to cause offence. It’s important to acknowledge that even with no intention to cause any harm, those comments and behaviours can be potentially classified as harassment and assault.

How to prevent this happening

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year for some, but what about those who don’t celebrate Christmas? The reason can be related to religion or for any personal reasons. First of all, employers need to know that everyone must be respected regardless of religion, culture and personal beliefs. You might focus your celebration on the holiday season, the end of year or on values such as friendship and diversity.

There are certain things you can do to ensure diversity and inclusion during the holidays:

Ask everyone about their winter traditions, discuss it all together to show respect and inclusion

Name parties and activities with respect to all attendees (e.g. End of the Year Party)

Ask if they want to be involved in the winter celebrations (some people may want to skip the party but will be happy to contribute in charity activities)

Incorporate different dishes, decorations, music and games to bring different cultures together during the celebration

Ensure that any parties are as inclusive as possible to cater for those who do not drink alcohol or eat certain foods

Allow people not to celebrate if they don’t wish to

Do not be afraid to discuss rules and expectations with people as it may help prevent some uncomfortable situations. Promoting inclusivity and diversity in this way is a great way to get to know each other. Also, it can make a huge difference to people who may feel left out over the Christmas period. Some people may not want to celebrate the event due to cultural or religious reasons. It is also good to remember that the holiday season can be a difficult time of year for people who have lost loved ones, gone through personal difficulties or struggling with their health.

Make sure you communicate clearly that the event is optional. With the freedom to decide, employees will appreciate that their feelings are being respected.

What to do if you are the victim of an assault

If you have been the unfortunate victim of assault at your workplace, you may have legal rights. Talk to the experienced employment lawyers at SilverOak Solicitors about this. If the conduct was criminal in nature, our lawyers can help you when making a report to the proper authorities. They may also help you file discrimination charges with the appropriate agencies. You’ve been through enough, contact us today and let our experts support you the rest of the way.

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