19 June 2018


Employers united over shaping an effective ILO instrument that addresses violence and harassment at the workplace


In October 2015, the ILO Governing Body placed “Violence against women and men in the world of work” on the agenda of the 107th Session (June 2018) of the ILC with a view achieving an instrument/s under a double-discussion procedure.


During the first discussion, the Employers’ Group made clear their commitment to work towards an instrument with the potential to substantially impact the incidence of violence and harassment at the workplace. 


However, the outcome did not effectively address some key points. As it stands, the proposed text will make implementation of an instrument difficult at national level; it will not attract widespread support and thus will fail to make any real difference. 


The Employers proposed separate definitions for “violence” and “harassment”, as they demand different prevention measures and legal responses. However, the reference in the adopted definition to “a range of unacceptable behaviours” does not provide clear differentiation, or guidance on tackling different types of conduct.


Similarly, the definition of “worker” currently covers all persons working, irrespective of their contractual status, including laid-off and suspended workers, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants. Given the ambiguity regarding responsibilities and the broad definition of the “world of work”, it appears likely that employers would have to bear the costs related to incidents involving people they have never even met; in places beyond their reach and in situations beyond their control. Moreover, some of the responsibilities placed on employers do not take into account the practical limitations of SMEs (for instance, suggesting prevention “programmes” at company level). 


Everyone should be protected from violence and harassment, be it a worker or employer. However, the discussion aimed at excluding LGBTI persons, contrary to the Employers’ specific request. In addition, any member State that ratified the negotiated text as it now stands would have no obligation to protect employers subjected to violence or harassment since the operative provisions only cover “workers”. Our Group’s proposed amendments to ensure that all persons benefit from protection were not retained in the final conclusions. Nevertheless, it was clear that, by the end of the discussion, some governments were beginning to share the Employers’ concerns.    


Despite the challenges posed by the adopted conclusions, there is still an opportunity to craft an instrument that effectively responds to this important topic. The scope of the discussion needs to be clearer and the connection to the workplace better established. Likewise, any responsibilities placed on employers should be reasonable and relate to spaces within the employer’s control. 


We believe that the period between now and the adoption of the final outcome in 2019 still allows for changes to the proposed text that support an effective instrument and the IOE will, in collaboration with members, make every effort necessary to achieve this end. We will be in touch with members shortly with relevant briefing material for discussions with national governments.


As usual, the IOE will be communicating a brief report on the main outcomes of the recent ILC 2018 session with more detailed information.


Yours sincerely,

Roberto Suárez Santos

Acting Secretary-General

IOE Contact

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