Workplace violence and harassment increasing in Europe

Up to 20 per cent of workers affected

Violence, bullying and harassment are becoming increasingly common features of European workplaces, according to a new report by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

Third party violence and harassment affect from five to 20 per cent of European workers, depending on the country, sector and methodology employed. The report Workplace Violence and Harassment: a European Picture includes international statistics collected by the European Risk Observatory, part of EU-OSHA. Its recent pan-European workplace survey found 40 per cent of European managers are concerned about workplace violence and harassment, but only around 25 per cent have implemented procedures to deal with it.

This problem is even more acute in health and social work and in education with more than 50 per cent of managers identifying it as a health and safety problem, found the survey.

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

Many European countries still don’t do enough to recognize workplace violence, with few organizations having specific initiatives dealing with the issue. At the national level and among individual organizations there is a need to raise awareness and put in place policies and procedures to tackle and prevent violence and harassment at work, found the report.

“Workplace harassment can lead to stress, long-term sick leave, and even suicide,” said Takala. “Economic consequences are reduced productivity, increased sickness absence, higher turnover of staff and premature retirement due to disability at often early ages.”

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