European & International News

Workplace violence ’commonplace’ in Europe, says report

[Martin Banks in Brussels, 21 February 2011] Violence, bullying and harassment are becoming "increasingly common" in places of work in Europe, according to a new report by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

However, it says that the response to the problem from organisations and national governments is "inadequate."

Violence and harassment affects from five per cent to 20 per cent of European workers, depending on the country and sector employed, it says.

The agency’s report ’Workplace violence and harassment: a European picture’, includes international statistics collected by the European Risk Observatory.

These show that 40 per cent of European managers are concerned by workplace violence and harassment, but only around 25 per cent have implemented procedures to deal with it.

In many EU countries not more than 10 per cent, according to the agency.

The problem, it reports, is even more acute in health, social work and education with more than 50 per cent of managers identifying violence and harassment as a health and safety problem.

Presenting the study, the agency’s director Jukka Takala, said, "Both violence and harassment represent serious but under-reported threats to the safety and wellbeing of workers in Europe."

"Violence, verbal aggression or threats that employees experience with customers or patients are critical health and safety issues.

"And the psychological consequences are sometimes more dangerous than physical wounds. Workplace harassment can lead to stress, long-term sick leave, and even suicide.

"Economic consequences are reduced productivity, increased sickness absence, higher turnover of staff and premature retirement due to disability at often early ages.”

The report also reveals that in many European countries there is still not enough recognition of workplace violence, with few specific initiatives dealing with the issue.

At national level and among individual organisations it says there is a need to raise awareness, and put in place policies and procedures to tackle and prevent violence and harassment at work.

EU-OSHA has called on policy makers, researchers and employers’ and employees’ representatives to discuss the challenges in tackling workplace violence effectively and to identify new and ways to protect workers’ health and wellbeing.

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