ILO Employers' Group is committed to addressing the unacceptable behaviour of violence and harassment at work

With only weeks before the 108th International Labour Conference decides on proposed ILO instruments on violence and harassment at work, the Employers’ Group wants to set the record straight on its perspective.

Employers have repeatedly and unanimously expressed their strong commitment to effectively address the unacceptable behaviour of violence and harassment at work. In the 21st century, violence and harassment must be eradicated from the world of work. For this to happen, it is essential that the ILO crafts international norms that can be widely ratified and implemented into national law and practise in as many countries as possible. These laws must be reasonable, change behaviour, strengthen prevention measures and offer remedies to victims of violence and harassment.

However, the ILO Employers’ Group is speaking out about its four fundamental objections to the proposed ILO text on eliminating violence and harassment at work.

Incomprehensibly, the ILO Office keeps refusing to include in the proposed text separate definitions for violence and harassment. This is contrary to the practice followed by almost all existing national and regional regulations and agreements in this field.

To be effective, regulations and practices need to treat different violations with appropriate prevention efforts and legal responses. The draft proposal combines the two concepts into a single ambiguous definition which refers to “a range of unacceptable behaviours”. This failure to define the meaning of harassment and violence risks making prevention measures too broad, and punitive actions ineffective and counterproductive.

Secondly, the current draft Convention text is massively ambiguous about employers’ responsibilities. It is extremely difficult for an employer, whether it be a small, medium or large company, to know where his or her responsibilities start and end. Given the broad concept of the world of work, employers will have to bear the responsibility related to incidents involving people they have never even met (job-seekers for example); in places beyond their reach (public spaces) and in situations beyond their control (work-related trips). This could have disturbing consequences particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Thirdly, the proposed text does not foresee any obligation to protect employers subjected to violence or harassment. The current draft covers “workers” and “other persons”. All individuals should be clearly protected including employers. Employers in many areas of the world are also victims of physical violence or threats.

Finally, over the two-year negotiations the Employers’ Group and many Governments have maintained that within the list of vulnerable groups LGBTI people must be included, as they are often exposed to high risk of violence or harassment. Unfortunately, this request to include them as part of a longer list has been systematically rejected with the intention of denying them protection. All vulnerable groups including LGBTI people deserve specific mention in the Convention. 

Despite these challenges, Employers believe that the upcoming negotiations offer a renewed opportunity to craft effective ILO instruments. The IOE will fully support the Employers’ Group to do whatever it can to arrive at a meaningful and impactful outcome. All participants in the negotiations should aim at addressing the concerns raised through constructive dialogue.

The importance of the topic requires it.

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