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Violence and Aggression at Work


Being in the legal sector and in a regulatory role, I consider that we as solicitors are at the forefront of providing the requisite advice for our client, whether that be good or bad. A topic which often goes under the radar is how much abuse is one expected to tolerate while at work?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as:

‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’

It is important to remember that this can include:

  • verbal abuse or threats, including face-to-face, online and via telephone;
  • physical attacks.

This might include violence from clients towards a person at work.

For violence to be work-related, it must be in connection with the work activity. For example, the following situations would not be included in this definition:

  • personal disputes between workers and other people, such as family members;
  • violence between people not at work, such as clients.

The Impact?

Work-related violence can have an impact on both you and your colleagues, including those who may witness an incident. It can cause:

  • injury in serious cases;
  • stress and mental health conditions, which would be more common; or
  • disability or death in extreme cases.

There can be physical harm, but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also have a serious effect on a worker's mental health.

For employers, violence can lead to increased staff sickness, poor morale/confidence, and a damaged reputation, making it difficult to recruit and keep staff. It can also mean extra costs, with higher insurance premiums and compensation payments.

There are many reasons why workers do not report violence or aggression. These include:

  • believing it is just part of the job;
  • fearing they will be blamed for the incident;
  • not knowing how to report and record incidents;
  • reporting and recording procedures are time-consuming, too complicated or difficult to use;
  • believing nothing will be done about it; and
  • thinking the reputation of the business may be damaged.

Providing support for your workers

There can be a significant impact on workers who are directly involved in and those who witness an incident. It can affect workers’ mental and physical health.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • victims will react in different ways − consider changing a person’s job role or working conditions if they are particularly affected by the incident;
  • sensitive and appropriate support will reduce the victim’s suffering, for example offer them a chance to talk openly about the incident as soon as possible;
  • you can offer confidential counselling if your organisation provides this, or give them the details of local counselling services, or charities such as Victim Support; and
  • make sure the workers dealing with post-incident situations are fully trained and know how to support their colleagues.

Mitun Chauhan - Solicitor

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