ILO: a step closer to an international convention on workplace violence and harassment
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ILO: a step closer to an international convention on workplace violence and harassment

After two weeks of negotiations, which took place between 28 May and 8 June in Geneva, state representatives, employers and trade unions decided to continue discussions with a view to adopting a convention and a recommendation on the issue of harassment and violence in the workplace at the next International Labour Conference, in June next year.

Negotiators came together, during this year’s International Labour Conference, to discuss the possibility of a convention and recommendation. The contents thereof remain subject to further talks but the provisional record that was published on 8 June gives some indications as to what will be up for discussion at the next round of negotiations.

The document defines violence and harassment as the range of behaviour and conduct that causes, or risk causing, harm of a physical, psychological, sexual or economic nature. This notion places emphasis on violence and harassment on the basis of gender, whereby an individual is targeted because of their sex or gender or whereby a “disproportionate effect” is felt by people of a particular gender or sex, and includes sexual harassment.

The convention would seek to protect workers of all sectors, both in the informal and formal economy and not just salaried staff, from such conduct and behaviour. It will apply to all working people, regardless of their contract situation, including those in training, for example interns or apprentices, staff that have been laid off or had their contract suspended, voluntary staff, jobseekers and job candidates.

Meanwhile, conduct may be deemed workplace violence or harassment if it takes place in situations where work takes place, those related to work and frequented as a result of work. As such, a public or private space where a worker is paid and takes their breaks, such as sanitary facilities or where they eat, are considered to part of that individual’s place of work. The protection would also apply to travel between home and work, periods of travel, training, events and social activities related to work, as well as in accommodation provided by the employer. Meanwhile communication, such as email, telephone calls and SMS, related to work would also fall under this scope.

Victims and perpetrators of violence and harassment in the world of work can be employers, workers, their respective representatives, or third parties, such as clients, service providers, users, patients or members of the public.

Once ratified by states, the convention would task stake authorities with implementing legal means that seeks to prohibit and punish workplace violence and harassment. They would need to oblige companies to take measures themselves in order to prevent such behaviour and, in particular, take into consideration “violence and harassment, and the associated psychosocial risk” when it comes to the organisation of workplace health and safety. Instead companies could be required to adopt a policy covering all forms of violence and harassment, drawn up in consultation with workers and their representatives.

These points will be supplemented by a recommendation, which will provide more detailed and concrete guidelines, so that action can ultimately be taken.

For the time being, however, these measures are not set in stone and will be subject to further talks in 2019.

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