Violence in The Workplace in The UK

    Violence in the workplace is not a new phenomenon, but since the pandemic began, it has become increasingly problematic. Affecting hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK alone, this is an issue that affects individuals’ mental and physical well-being and safety. Not to mention the workplace culture that your organisation may develop if it continues unchecked.

    In this post, Guardian Support will explore the issue of workplace abuse and violence, how it has evolved since the start of the pandemic, and how you can reduce it in your organisation. Keep reading to find out more about violence at work.

    What is violence in the workplace?

    The HSE (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”. This may include physical attacks as well as verbal abuse or threats, in person or online.

    To elucidate, abuse in the workplace can include physical attacks, verbal or written threats or abuse and threatening or intimidating behaviour. With the rise of the internet and its use, a lot of this behaviour has had a chance to move online too, which often brings abuse closer to home. 

    How is workplace violence affecting the UK?

    The Health & Safety Executive and the ONS produced data in 2020 that outlined the prevalence of aggression and violence affecting businesses and workforces across the UK. Approximately 688,000 incidents of aggression and violence were reported in the workplace in England and Wales alone. Around 300,000 of these were assaults.

    Aggressive incidents have spiked since the pandemic began. But that is not the only issue that has risen. An increased number of workers have been forced to work from home, and while many appreciate the opportunity to work from home, for others this may pose a threat

    Many have become lone workers, and many may also be exposed to greater personal safety risks, including but not limited to domestic violence.

    Furthermore, there has been an increase in online abuse in the work sphere. A pilot study conducted by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust found that there was a rise in cyber abuse in 2020. 35% of participants stated that they experienced online abuse at work. Of these victims, 83% stated that the abuse escalated during the pandemic. Perpetrators included colleagues (29%), ex-colleague (29%), and patient/client/customer (11%). 

    A distressing 92% of victims reported that the abuse that they experienced negatively impacted their mental health. With mental health having been affected by various aspects of the pandemic, this is particularly concerning. 

    Even more concerning is the lack of information and adequate support for victims. The study also found that only 19% of participants had been risk assessed, 13% had received training, 13% knew their company policy/guidance, and as little as 5% had access to lone working apps or devices.

    So what can you do to protect your workforce and your organisation against the cost of personal safety incidents? 

    Safeguarding your workforce from workplace violence

    Safeguarding your employees is a crucial part of being a manager or business owner. Basic DBS Checks should always be conducted for anyone joining your staff, as a start. This will allow you to be aware of potentially dangerous conduct from the past, which may become a problem in the future.

    If a safety incident does crop up, the first thing to do when tackling workplace violence within your organisation is to speak to your HR manager. If you do not have an HR department, our HR consultants have many years of experience in dealing with workplace bullying and harassment.

    HR personnel can ensure that you have a good workplace culture and can help to navigate situations of violence at work, with both the victim and perpetrator.

    The next thing to ensure that your company is doing is to clearly outline and communicate your Bullying and Harassment Policy to all employees from day one of employment. If you do not have a policy in place, you may be found legally liable for any damages caused by bullying at work. In addition to this, if your employees know the repercussions of workplace violence, they are far less likely to become perpetrators.

    If you would like to know more about how we can help your business with violence in the workplace, contact us today. Our talented and dedicated HR professionals can help you to protect the safety and well-being of your employees.

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