Harassment and violence against workers, whether committed by a co-worker, manager or third party is not acceptable and employers are responsible for ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to prevent and deal with harassment and violence when foreseeable.
Harassment and violence in the workplace can be:
- physical, psychological and/or sexual
- a single incident or a systematic pattern of behaviour
- amongst co-workers, managers, subordinates, clients, customers, patients, pupils and other third parties
Occupations most at risk of harassment and violence at work
Harassment and violence in the workplace affects any type of organisation. However common high risk work environments include the:
- Protection service (Prison Officers, Security Guards etc.)
- Transport services
- Healthcare professionals
- Educational professionals
- Leisure (bars, nightclubs etc)
Duty of care
Employers have a responsibility to identify and manage the risk to their employees of harassment and violence in the workplace and should provide clear policies that detail:
- the responsibilities of the employee and the employer
- set workplace behavioural standards
- raise awareness
In large organisations these policies are likely to be formalised so as to ensure that they are applied fairly. In smaller organisations they are likely to be less formal but the principle still applies that if there is a risk of harm to an employee that steps should be taken by the employer to protect them.
Common situations where an employer may be found to be responsible for an injury as a result of an assault or attack at work include but are not limited to situations where:
- An employee is working alone or is short-staffed – Employees such as care home workers, security guards and prison officers are particularly exposed to attacks or assaults and it is essential that there are adequate staffing levels in place to help prevent or minimise an attack or an assault in the workplace.
- The employer has disregarded previous violent behaviour or high risk environments – If an individual such as a client, inmate, patient or another employee has displayed violent behaviour in the past and no preventative action has been taken by the employer to avoid a reoccurrence then the employer may be held responsible for the assault or attack.
- Insufficient personal protective equipment – personal protective equipment (PPE) must be supplied in appropriate circumstances and should be in full working order. PPE is designed to raise awareness and to help prevent or limit the extent of an injury.
- Lack of adequate training – whilst training is not a substitute for safe systems of work it is an essential part of any strategy to reduce work-related violence. Training should be appropriate for the risk and particular circumstances; despite this many employers offer the same type of training to all staff regardless of the effectiveness of doing so. For instance ambulance staff responding to emergencies could face pushes, punches and kicks; and as such the training should focus on diffusion of a confrontational event and positioning to prevent injuries. However, those working in healthcare or the education sector may require training in breakaway techniques and guidelines that help them to manage violent patients or pupils. Failure to provide adequate training to help workers protect and manage harassment or violence in the workplace could be deemed as a failure by the employer to protect the employee.
If the attack or assault was not foreseeable or in any way attributable to your employer then you may have a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) claim and should visit our CICA page for further advice.
If you or a loved one has been harassed, attacked or assaulted at work and would like to discuss bringing a harassment and violence at work compensation claim please call our Personal Injury (PI) lawyers for a FREE, no-obligation chat on Freephone 0808 164 0808. Alternatively, you can complete the request a call back form and we will call you.