Melbourne Cup: Warnings of sexual harrassment and inappropriate behaviour

Experts warn employers to be vigilant when it comes to inappropriate behaviour to avoid unwanted aftermath following celebrations for the Melbourne Cup.

With the Melbourne Cup on the horizon, employers across Australia are expecting a drop in productivity.

According to employer branding research conducted by Randstad, half of Australian workers rank the ability to provide a pleasant environment and a healthy work-life balance among the top criteria when choosing an employer.

“The Melbourne Cup is a chance for Aussie employers to take a punt and show off their true colours in a bid to bring their people together, celebrate tradition and boost their workforce engagement,” said Steve Shepherd, employment market analyst at Randstad.

Shepherd added that it is important to celebrate in some way, as failure to do so could send the wrong message to employees.

“Our research shows that 47% of workers consider deadline pressures to be the main obstruction to a healthy work-life balance, we recommend that where possible, managers across the nation push back non-urgent deadlines to ensure that Melbourne Cup celebrations have the positive impact intended,” he said.

Joydeep Hor, managing principal of People + Culture Strategies, told HC that it is highly important that employers maintain a consistent level of responsibility throughout Melbourne Cup celebrations.

“Employers place a lot of trust and reliance in their employees behaving responsibly, and in 85%-98% of occasions they do,” he said. “But this event is notorious for alcohol-related improper behaviours occurring. This usually happens at the back end of the day after significant alcohol has been consumed – in the past there have been a number of cases of sexual harassment.”

Hor had the following tips for employers planning celebrations for the Melbourne Cup:
  1. Ensure that you have committed to a proper program of education regarding expected behaviour with your staff, with that working hand in hand with written policies
  2. Ensure that there is at least one member of senior management who commits to sobriety during an event
  3. Empower staff to call out inappropriate behaviours so that they can be dealt with at the time rather than by filing complaints afterwards
  4. Think very carefully about what funding you provide for alcohol consumption
  5. Consider factors such as heat, dehydration and lack of food, assessing them from a health, safety and wellbeing point of view

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