Ratifying the Violence and Harassment Convention
The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention is the first ever international instrument to tackle violence and harassment at work. It requires governments to enact comprehensive national legislation to prevent and address harassment. This includes a legal requirement to take appropriate measures to prevent harassment and provide effective means of investigation, as well as support for victims of harassment.
The convention also recognises the vulnerability of certain occupations and the importance of an inclusive approach to combating violence. For example, it calls for a legal prohibition against sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and it calls for monitoring and effective enforcement mechanisms. Additionally, it requires governments to monitor compliance with the convention and report on the implementation of the provisions.
The United Kingdom is the 11th country in the world to ratify and register the Convention. During the two-year negotiations, the UK played an important role in the process. As part of its involvement, Ministers have deposited an Instrument of Ratification with the ILO. A number of human rights organizations and trade unions, including the Trades Union Congress and ActionAid, have been involved in campaigns for ratification.
The UN has also established a convention on workplace harassment. This defines unacceptable behaviours, provides a detailed definition of the types of harassment that are prohibited, and sets out the conditions under which workers may bring legal proceedings against perpetrators. In addition, the convention covers both paid and unpaid activities. Therefore, it is applicable to both the public and private sectors.
One in five people are estimated to experience some form of harassment at work. Many of these incidents are gender-based and often result in sexual harm, as well as psychological and economic damage. Furthermore, it is likely that the convention will lead to a more comprehensive, human-centred approach to workplace harassment.
Aside from providing a comprehensive definition of violence and harassment in the workplace, the ILO’s convention also addresses the underlying causes. The UK has a duty under article 6 of the Convention to ensure that there is no discrimination in employment. Article 8 requires employers to take necessary measures to prevent and respond to harassment. Among other things, the UK must take action to eliminate gender-based violence.
While the convention will not be legally binding in the UK until the government ratifies it, it is an important step to protecting the most vulnerable workers in the country. However, a full ratification would require the adoption of anti-discrimination obligations and the development of dispute resolution mechanisms.
As a member state, the United Kingdom has an obligation to report to the ILO regularly on the implementation of the Convention. However, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is currently seeking views on ratification. Nevertheless, if the UK is determined to ratify the Convention, it would be in line with its obligations under the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work Report. Moreover, ratification would be in line with the full extension of the paid domestic violence leave entitlement to all employees in Australia.https://www.youtube.com/embed/7VAvVD2K1R4