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30 July 2010

EU: guidelines to tackle third-party violence and harassment in education, private security and local authorities

On July 16th, European trade union organizations - EPSU (public services), UNI Europa (services), CSEE (education) - and European employers' organizations - HOSPEEM (hospital), CCRE (towns and regions), EFEE (education), EuroCommerce and CoESS (private security) - adopted a series of guidelines to help businesses, workers and union representatives prevent and reduce cases of third-party violence and harassment at work.

Varied violence. Such type of violence and harassment can take different forms, according to the social partners: physical, psychological, verbal or sexual, originate from an individual or a group, be a one-off incident or systematic, in a public or private space at work. Its can also be variably serious and have different origins (mental, sexual, emotional unbalance); it can require the intervention of public authorities. The impact on the victims can be deep. Finally, it can occur on the internet.

Health and safety policy. The guidelines list a series of measures to adopt to develop appropriate policies to prevent and reduce third-party harassment and violence. First, there is awareness-raising among workers and executives. However, the social partners add that the best approach is global and involves the social partners at all the stages of the procedure. Thus, employers should provide, within their health and safety policies, for a specific political framework for third-party harassment and violence. The document adds that “risk assessments of workplaces and individual job functions should include an action-oriented assessment of the risks posed by third-parties.” Besides, third-party violence requires ad-hoc measures, tailored to each work environment, regularly updated and taking account of recent developments in legislation, technology, etc.

Information. The document provides a clear-cut list of future policies for the prevention of violence and harassment at work. These include on-going information and consultation with managers, workers and their representatives; a clear definition of third-party violence and harassment, giving examples of different forms this can take; information to the public, outlining that harassment and violence towards employees will not be tolerated. There should also be a policy based on risk assessment taking into account the various occupations, locations and working practices, to design appropriate responses in case of known problems. This last point can entail: providing clear information to the public regarding procedures for third parties to express dissatisfaction and for such complaints to be investigated; provide employees with suitable tools for communication channels, monitoring, security measures; or even sign cooperation agreements with the police, justice, social services and inspectorates. Besides, the guidelines add that training for management and employees may incorporate more specific skills such as techniques to avoid or manage conflict.

Monitoring. The policies will also have to provide for a procedure to monitor and investigate allegations of harassment and/or violence from third-parties and clear policies on the support to be provided to employees who are exposed to harassment and/or violence by third-parties, medical, legal, and financial. The social partners add that the policies have to define procedures to report a crime or share information regarding perpetrators of third-party violence with the public authorities. Finally, the document focuses on the need to provide for transparent and effective procedures for monitoring and ensuring follow up of the policies put in place to ensure that the policy framework is well-known and understood by management, workers and third-parties.

Follow-up. The European social partners call on the European Commission to actively support these guidelines and to organize workshops on the subject by the end of 2011. They also state that the national social partners will have to promote these guidelines, raise awareness to the issue of third-party violence and promote the exchange of information within their sector.

  • The guidelines
Source: Planet Labor
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