Melbourne Cup: Warnings of sexual harrassment and inappropriate behaviour

by Chloe Taylor04 Nov 2014
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


  • by Judy Apps 4/11/2014 12:51:05 PM

    Point '2' - shouldn't all members of senior management remain sober?

  • by Bernie Althofer 4/11/2014 1:00:25 PM

    There is considerable pressure on managers and workers to participate in what is viewed as a 'traditional Australian event'.

    Whilst some managers and workers might see this event as a 'one off' with some 'allowance' for rules to be broken or even stretched, the presence of various media outlets particularly on the track increase the potential for various behaviours to be recorded.

    Organisations do have various 'rules' governing expected standards of behaviour and conduct and it is generally expected that managers and workers follow these rules on a day to day basis. The rules are generally not suspended for the Melbourne Cup.

    Whilst the majority of managers and workers will not only do the right thing, and see that the right thing is done, they always need to be 'on guard' when someone else falls below the line.

    The points made by Joydeep are valid and in my view, if implemented and followed at all times, the risk of adverse behaviours occurring can be substantially reduced. However, given the fear that some managers and workers have when it comes to stepping in and calling out bad behaviour, this might be the next frontier to be addressed. Calling out bad behaviour will for some be like throwing a wet blanket on 'celebrations' when in reality, everyone needs to understand why the bad behaviours are being called out.

  • by HW 4/11/2014 1:43:29 PM

    This whole thing is a minefield. Even if an employee's behaviour is supposed to be 'called out' by a (sober - I agree, Judy...) member of Management, or a colleague, it would be a brave person who tried that in the context of a party where precisely the objective is to 'have fun' - that is, to suspend the standards (and the power structures) that apply in the workplace the rest of the year. Who decides what behaviour to 'call out'? - and on what basis? I can imagine the responses...

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