Are sexual misconduct allegations curtailing workplace holiday parties?
- As the volume of public sexual misconduct allegations increases, some employers are scaling back on hosting holiday parties this year, according to a new survey by Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. Survey results raise speculation that recent sexual misconduct claims are making employers cut back on holiday celebrations.
- The percentage of employers who plan to hold holiday parties is 80%, the same as in 2016. But the percentage of employers who aren't hosting holiday affairs is 11%, up from 4% last year.
- Some are also scaling back on spending for these events, with just over 15% budgeting less this year compared with 10% in 2016. That's reflected in a few other metrics measured by Challenger, Gray and Christmas: fewer employers expect to serve alcohol, extend invites to 'plus ones' or hire caterers or event planners.
If employers aren't aware of mounting sexual misconduct allegations, whether planning holiday parties or just conducting everyday business, they should be. Besides their responsibility to provide a workplace that's safe and respectful for all workers, employers can also be held liable for workers' misconduct at work-related events, including those hosted off-site.
Employees should be reminded that the holiday party is still a work-related event and that inappropriate behavior won't be tolerated. Social venues where alcoholic drinks are plentiful often embolden people to behave in ways in which they normally would not. Eliminating alcoholic beverages at company-sponsored events is one way to discourage sexual misconduct. Holding holiday parties in the daytime and including families is another way to curb misconduct.
Studies suggest that the annual holiday party is losing popularity relative to other perks. In a recent Randstad U.S. poll, 90% of the respondents said they preferred bonuses and paid time off to an employer-sponsored holiday event. Employers who are skittish about sexual misconduct occurring at holiday parties might want to offer workers other perquisites benefits.
Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are regular occurrences in the workplace. But what's different about the recent flood of allegations is that targets of, or witnesses to, such behavior are now empowered to speak up. In HR's backyard, sexual harassment non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, have increasingly come under fire. Above all else, tread carefully when planning this year's festivities, and review relevant policies and procedures going into 2018.
- Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. 2017 Holiday Party Survey Report: Companies Plan Less Showy Shindigs
- HR Dive How to have a holly jolly holiday party: A guide for HR
- HR Dive Keeping an eye out for sexual harassment? You may be looking in the wrong place