Scotland’s employers are failing workers who face violence at work, says UNISON

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Violence at work is not ‘part of the job’ says UNISON as it launches a new health and safety guide today (Thursday).

UNISON, Scotland’s largest public service union, says employers are failing workers in the community and voluntary sector by viewing violence at work as inevitable.

The guide – It’s Not Part of the Job – is aimed at workers in the community and voluntary sector, who the union say are most vulnerable to violence at work, and looks at policies for tackling workplace violence.

The guide follows a survey carried out by UNISON last year which revealed the number of violent attacks on public service staff has doubled in the past ten years. The results only underlined UNISON’s longstanding concerns over violence in the workplace. Of the members – mainly women – who had experienced violence in the course of their work:

• Half (50%) had been physically assaulted

• 61% had faced threatening behaviour

• 56% were verbally abused

• 56% had experienced a combination of all three

Members said these were often frequent and sometimes daily occurrences. All of these workers had reported at least one violent incident to a manager. Only 56% said their report had been followed up and only 44% felt the report was taken seriously.

Deborah Clarke, UNISON’s head of community, said: “We know from the direct experience of our members in the community and voluntary sector that violent assaults on workers, especially in care jobs, are a huge problem. This is made worse partly because it is regarded by many employers and others as just ‘part of the job’.

“Violence at work, in any form, is not acceptable and is not part of the contract of employment.”

Dave Watson, UNISON’s head of policy and public affairs, said: “Violence at work is a major occupational hazard for too many workers. While physical attacks are the most serious form of violence, verbal abuse and threats are much more common and can have long-term health effects.

“This does not mean there are easy simple solutions that can immediately eradicate all attacks on staff. However, some employers appear to see violence as inevitable, unpredictable and therefore uncontrollable. We hope this guide will give our members the means to ensure that violence is never ‘part of the job’.”