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May 12, 2021

Zero tolerance approach is needed over work violence

first_imgFirmsare failing to meet legal obligations to staff attacked by clients.  Paul Nelson reportsPrimeMinister Tony Blair raised the profile of violence in the workplace during hiselection campaign when he pledged to increase the length of sentences forpeople who attack public sector workers.Butmany HR professionals believe there is more to tackling workplace violence thanharsher sentences. Employers need to implement training and guidelines thatequip their staff for conflict situations, claims Lionel Fairweather, HRmanagerof outsourcing company Logic Systems Management.Surprisingly,recent research by the University of Central Lancashire and recruitment companyLawrence Allison Group, shows that a significant proportion of organisationsare breaking the law by not keeping records of violent incidents or havingpolicies in place which deal with aggressive behaviour.Thesurvey indicates that 35 per cent of organisations do not keep records ofincidents, such as verbal and physical attacks by members of the public, and 25per cent do not have policies to deal with aggression.HRprofessionals have ex-pressed concern at the report’s findings, claiming that arecording and reporting system are the very least that an employee shouldexpect from an employer.DominicGrealy, head of personnel at the Sumitomo Trust and Banking, said, “I amsurprised at these figures considering the negative effect that intimidationand bullying can have on retention.”Thereport, Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace, recommends that employersshould implement zero-tolerance policies. It suggests such policies shouldaddress potentially violent situations as well as full-blown incidents, andwould only be effective where the reporting of incidents is accurate.JohnAdsett, secretary of NHS HR group AHHRM, said, “We have a zero-tolerancepolicy. It takes a lot of paperwork but is well worth it.”Headded, “I used to work with a man who did not have to take a swing at youto make you feel bad. In five minutes he could verbally distress you enoughthat it would be worse than a beating. That type of harassment is just as badas violence as it has a damaging effect on team morale.”WendyFoers, HR director of the London Ambulance Service, urges employers to improveinternal communication to raise morale over the issue.Shesaid, “Communication is all important. Employees must see that the wholeorganisation is pulling together. Staff need to be confident that the employerwill look into all reported incidents and act when necessary.”Thereport’s co-author Tom Swan wants to see employers introduce conflictresolution procedures. He believes that in addition to improving staff morale,it will reduce sickness and stress levels and help companies comply with healthand safety and human rights legislation.Theretail sector has the highest proportion of incidents, categorised as verbalabuse, threats of physical violence, acts of physical assault and physicalassaults with a weapon, according to the research.”This is a nationalproblem, particularly in retailing, and requires a government initiative assoon as possible,” commented one retail HR manager quoted in the research,who did not wish to be named.JimWhite, director of HR at Safeway, agreed, “Retailers are on the front lineof shop crime. Statistics show that you are more likely to be injured in theworkplace through dealing with customer theft than any other activity.”Tocombat this problem Safeway has trained 1,400 staff through its managing theftand conflict in the workplace course.Thereport also calls for the government to produce a consistent set of guidelinesfor employers that would enable them to develop effective monitoring andtraining systems.TheBritish Retail Consortium also wants the Government to act. A consortiumspokesman said, “The priority is for the Government to produce a set ofguidelines for employers to help them develop effective monitoring of trainingsystems.”Butmany HR professionals dispute the need for government involvement, claiming thatit is the employers’ responsibility.Adsettsaid, “I think that there should definitely be guidelines to helpemployers, but I’m not sure about the Government getting involved as itencourages a ‘nanny state’.”Theproblem does not really lie with the Government. Good employers should havepolicies in place and I would only like to see it involved as a lastresort.”Foersagrees. “It is up to the individual employer to tailor its own policies.It is vital that employers understand the risks that are involved in the rolesof their employees – that way they can shape their policies to theorganisation.”Whetherthe Government gets involved or not, it is clear that employers need to addressviolence in the workplace.Thereport states, “Conflict in the workplace is a continuing and escalatingconcern, although systems exist that can minimise or eradicate its existence.The issue does not appear to figure in the bottom line, it is not a performanceindicator for many organisations.”Guidelinesfor facing up to violence at workTheDealing with Conflict in the Workplace report includes employer guidelines tohelp address work-based violence. It urges all employers and employees to beaware of their rights and responsibilities under UK legislation. These include:–Encouraging employees to report incidents to establish a true picture ofviolence and bullying in the workplace.Organisation should treat the reportingof incidents confidentially and ensure action will be taken–Ensuring accurate records of violence and abusive behaviour are maintained–Ensuring full and comprehensive assessments of risk undertaken by appropriatelyqualified individuals–Providing relevant training and education programmes –Working in close collaboration with employees to develop measures to createstrategies that ensure individual and organisational safety needs are met –Updating policies and procedures to reflect research-based best practice inorder to remain effective–Appointing a “violence” monitor with responsibility for recording andmonitoring violent, aggressive or abusive conduct with a named individual orgroup within the organisation–Setting up staff support systems to help employees deal with cases of conflictThelatter could include establishing an independent helpline that employees cancall if subject to unwanted behaviour, and facilitating debriefings to provideopportunities for employees to talk about what happened; providing time offwork for employees where necessary after an incident or offering legal helpwhere appropriate in serious cases.www.lawrenceallisontraining.com Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. 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