Protection from violence and harassment in the workplace

Back in June 2019, the International Labour Organisation adopted a new Convention and Recommendation in respect of Violence and Harassment in the Workplace. This is the International Labour Convention Number 190.

In March of this year, the UK Government also signed International Labour Convention Number 190, making them the eleventh country to do so. The result of this is that in the near future, it is likely that we will see new laws and guidance being introduced to extend the protection offered to workers from harassment and violence in the workplace.

The Convention requires governments to take measures to protect workers from violence and harassment. It defines violence at work as a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices that result in sexual, physical, psychological, or economic harm. While its primary focus is protection in the workplace, the Convention doesn’t stop there. It has been drafted with a wide scope and seeks to cover harassment during commutes as well as when workers are away from the office on work activities.

Woman at work

Some key provisions that the Convention will seek to introduce will be:

  • Protection for all persons irrespective of their contractual status;
  • Enhanced obligations on employers based upon their degree of control; and
  • Policies to enforce equality and non-discrimination for women and other vulnerable groups.

These steps are being taken by the UK Government even though the current legislation largely satisfies the requirements of the Convention. There are numerous laws, both in the civil and criminal legal systems, which aim to tackle violence and harassment. However, the Government is committing to take further action and has confirmed they will be increasing the duties placed upon employers. This will be achieved through the introduction of strengthened protections and motivations for employers to improve practices and cultures in the workplace.

The Safeguarding Minister, Rachel Maclean, has stated:

“The safety of everyone in our country, wherever they are, is our priority. No one should have to be in fear of violence in any space, including in their place of work. By ratifying this Convention, we are taking another step to eradicating violence of all forms and ensuring everyone is able to flourish without fear in their workplace.”

Following the ratification of the Convention, employers in the UK should expect to see guidance and changes to be implemented to increase the protection of employees against violence and harassment. There is also likely to be an increased obligation on employers in respect of training and awareness.  In light of this, it would be wise for employers to ensure that their guidance, policies and training are all up to date. Feel free to contact our solicitors for professional advice on updating your workplace policies to comply with legal requirements relating to employee protections.

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