SYDNEY, November 25, 2009: Australian businesses are being urged to be more vigilant about preventing sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace during the Christmas party season when alcohol and pent-up grievances could prove a heady mix.

According to The Resolution Centre, which specialises in conflict resolution, sexual harassment investigation and mediation, there are more likely to be sexual harassment claims around the Christmas and New Year's period.

When putting on Christmas parties, some companies are aware of the legislation and their legal responsibilities when it comes to sexual harassment and bullying, but it's important to be proactive in averting any potential claims, says The Resolution Centre managing director, Katherine Graham.

For example, companies should be communicating clearly to staff the appropriate standards of behavior during work functions, preferably via written communication.

However, Graham says there are many small-to-medium businesses that have no policies in place for codes of conduct, complaints handling and disciplining staff.

Businesses need to understand legislation and have in place office guidelines that set out acceptable behavior and work practices, she adds.

There are still many businesses that don't have these human resources structures, so conflict happens and conflict escalates, and by the time we're asked to come in and mediate, the proverbial has already hit the fan with the conflict rippling throughout the entire company, affecting morale and the business's reputation.