European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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The social partners get to grips with the problem

Although there is no EU Directive specifically dealing with the prevention of work-related stress or harassment and violence at work, the Framework Directive 89/391 on health and safety at work covers implicitly but clearly both risks and some directives in the field of non-discrimination do also cover harassment

The European Commission preferred to leave the social partners to deal with the matter themselves. Two so-called “autonomous” framework agreements were signed in the 2000s. In October 2004, the ETUC, UNICE (now Businesseurope) and the organizations representing small firms and public sector employers signed an agreement pledging to identify, prevent and manage work-related stress problems.

In April 2007, the same European social partners signed a second agreement recognizing that harassment and violence at work can have "serious social and economic consequences” and pledging all employers to have a clear statement that such practices “will not be tolerated”. Employers in consultation with workers and/or their representatives are also required to establish procedures for preventing, identifying and managing problems of harassment and violence. Both agreements have been or are being implemented in Member States. As a signatory, the ETUC has developed activities to spread and implement both agreements under an EU-funded programme. Seminars for its members have been organized with ETUI involvement. Two guides to the interpretation of the agreements have been produced and other information resources have been put online on a website devoted to the European social dialogue.

Despite union efforts, these agreements apply today only to a very small number of workers in Europe. No binding agreement has been adopted in many countries. And even in countries where there is an agreement, it often only lays down a general framework and workers covered by more specific and effective agreements are still the exception. With problems on the scale they are, voluntary agreements are not enough. The big unknown is whether the European Community institutions will assume their responsibilities. And in the current political context, that is far from certain.

Stress :

Harassment and violence :