Last reviewed 25 November 2021

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, has told the House of Commons that the Government has decided to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention.

If no objections are raised in the next 21 sitting days, she said, the Government will move to draw up the UK’s instrument of ratification and the Convention will come into force 12 months after that instrument is deposited with the ILO.

This convention, along with its supplementing recommendation (No 206), sets out a common framework for action to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work.

It is, the Work and Pensions Secretary explained, the first international treaty to recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

The move has been welcomed by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady although she warned that action and enforcement must follow.

"No matter who you are, or the job you do, you should be safe from violence and harassment at work,” she said. “But each year thousands of UK workers are assaulted, abused and harassed while trying to do their job. And we have even seen a rise in violence and abuse towards key workers in the pandemic.”

Ms O’Grady called on unions, the Government and industry to work together on the laws and workplace policies needed to prevent abuse and punish those responsible.

“This should include recognising that not every worker faces the same risks,” she concluded. “Insecure workers, frontline staff, women, black workers and those with other protected characteristics face greater risks that must be addressed.”

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

All employers have a legal duty of care to ensure their staff are safe and protected whilst at work.

Therefore, it is imperative they have robust policies and procedures in place to minimise any violent behaviours, and on the rare occasions where misconduct is displayed, have appropriate measures in place to effectively manage this.

This can be done by providing bullying and harassment training to employees and managers; increasing public signage for clients and customers, outlining the company’s zero-tolerance stance against violence and abuse; highlighting grievance processes employees should follow if they are the subject of misconduct; and including tailored initiatives for those with protected characteristics who may be affected more.