April 27, 2007

EU-wide crackdown on workplace bullying

The European commission has signed a key pact with its ‘social partners’ aimed at tackling unacceptable" harassment and violence at work.

According to the Dublin-based EU agency Eurofound, one in 20 workers, or five per cent of the workforce, say they have been exposed to bullying or harassment in the previous 12 month period. The most affected sectors are health and social work, education, public administration and transport.

A news conference on was told that workplace harassment in the British health service is estimated to cost over €100m a year in terms of absenteeism and lost productivity.

An agreement signed on Thursday by employment commissioner Vladimír Špidla and the heads of the main European trade union and employers’ federations is designed to tackle the issue.

The agreement, which follows ten months of negotiations, aims to prevent and manage problems of workplace bullying. It obliges participating businesses to make it clear that harassment and violence will not be tolerated and specifying the procedure to be followed in the event of complaints. The pact leaves the necessary flexibility to decide on the details of the procedure at company level.

Members of the signatory parties have until April 2010 to implement it. John Monks, secretary general of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), described it as a “major agreement”.

“The agreement has strong added value,” he said. “It is a practical tool for companies and workers to come to grips with situations of harassment and violence between colleagues at the workplace. Harassment and violence is not only unacceptable but also disruptive and can be very costly to both employer and employee.”

Philippe de Buck, secretary general of Businesseurope, said the agreement, which his organisation has also signed, aims to raise awareness of the problem among both employers and employees.

From: http://www.eupolitix.com - 26 Apr 2007
Agreement on harassment and violence at work

The European social partners (ETUC, BUSINESSEUROPE, CEEP and UEAPME) signed a framework agreement on harassment and violence at work. The agreement aims to prevent and, where necessary, manage problems of bullying, sexual harassment and physical violence at the workplace. Companies in Europe will have to adopt a policy of zero-tolerance towards such behaviour and draw up procedures to deal with cases of harassment and violence where they occur. Data suggests that one in 20 workers (5%) reports being exposed to bullying and/or harassment each year.

The European agreement condemns all forms of harassment and violence and refers to the employer's duty to protect workers against these situations. Companies will need to set out procedures to follow when cases of harassment or violence arise. These can include an informal stage involving a person trusted by management and the workforce.

Complaints should be investigated and dealt with quickly. The principles of dignity, confidentiality, impartiality and fair treatment need to be respected. The agreement underlines that appropriate measures will be taken against the perpetrator, including disciplinary action up to dismissal, while the victim will receive support with reintegration, if needed

From: http://www.businessupdated.com - 27 Apr 2007
Extracts from the 'Text of framework agreement on harassment and violence at work':

Pre-existing procedures may be suitable for dealing with harassment and violence. A suitable procedure will be underpinned by but not confined to the following:

  • It is in the interest of all parties to proceed with the necessary discretion to protect the dignity and privacy of all.
  • No information should be disclosed to parties not involved in the case.
  • Complaints should be investigated and dealt with without undue delay.
  • All parties involved should get an impartial hearing and fair treatment.
  • Complaints should be backed up by detailed information.
  • False accusations should not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action.
  • External assistance may help.
...Employers, in consultation with workers and/or their representatives, will establish, review and monitor these procedures to ensure that they are effective both in preventing problems and dealing with issues as they arise... The victim(s) will receive support and, if necessary, help with reintegration.

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