How to reduce workplace violence
With incidents of violence and aggression under-reported within the health and social care sectors, Sarah J Baker, Solicitor Apprentice at Napthens provides steps for you to help reduce any risks of violence at work.
You may have seen or heard of the infamous altercation between Chris Rock and Will Smith at this year’s Oscars. What followed was a string of TikTok videos and memes ridiculing the incident. In the realms of employment law this is not a laughing matter and is more akin to poor management and leadership, which could expose employers and individuals to costly legal consequences.
What is work-related violence and what is the law?
The Health and Safety Executive defines work-related violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’ Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, every employer has a legal duty to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. They also have a responsibility to consider potential risks to employees (including the risk of reasonably foreseeable violence) under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999.
Violence within the health and social sector
Incidents of violence and aggression are particularly under-reported within the health and social care sectors, with many workers considering it ‘part of the job.’ Health and social care workers are often dealing with a wide range of people with mental health issues, which puts them at an increased risk of violence. But should this mean workers accept violence at work as a normal part of the job? The simple answer is no.
So, what can employers do to reduce the risk to employees?
Employers should have a violence in the workplace policy, which clearly sets out the behavioural expectations of employees and what action they will take in the event an incident is reported. In most cases, violence in the workplace will amount to gross misconduct which could lead to dismissal.
Employers should also inform their suppliers and customers that they have a zero tolerance to threats and violence towards their staff at work.
What steps can health and social care sectors take?
It is important that employers take practical steps to reduce the risk to its employees, particularly those at a higher risk of violence at work.
There are some practical steps which employers can take, for example conducting regular risk assessments (including predicting what might happen), having personal safety guidance in place and keeping detailed records of incidents to assess patterns.
What can employees do?
Employees may not be aware, but they also have a responsibility for their own health and safety at work. It is important that they report every incident and keep detailed records but should also inform their employer of situations where they have felt unsafe or uncomfortable so they can assess and put in place any procedures to reduce the risk.
Certain sectors face greater challenges than others when it comes to violence at work. Employees need to feel able to report incidents to their employers in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously. Violence in the workplace should not be the norm and employers need to do all they can to protect their employees, wherever they can.
If you have any queries in respect of violence at work or in need of specific advice in relation to any employment law query, please contact a member of the Napthens Employment Team who are able to offer 30 minutes of free advice to QCS members.