The government has announced its intention to ratify the Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, drawn up by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The first international treaty of its kind, the convention recognises the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment and provides a common framework for action, affording comprehensive protection to a wide range of individuals – particularly those who are most vulnerable.

As the ILO points out, violence and harassment at work can take a range of forms and may lead to physical, psychological, sexual, and economic harm. Since the adoption of the convention, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has further highlighted the issue, with many forms of work-related violence and harassment being reported across countries since the outbreak began, particularly against women and vulnerable groups.

Although the ILO has addressed issues related to violence and harassment at work over many decades, it acknowledges that this has historically been done in a way that has been very fragmented. This convention, on the other hand, brings together equality and non-discrimination with safety and health at work in one instrument, and places human dignity and respect at its core.

Importantly, the convention recognises that violence and harassment can constitute a human rights violation or abuse, and provides, for the first time, a single composite concept of violence and harassment in Article 1.

Article 4(2) of the convention requires member states to adopt an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to prevent and address such behaviours in the world of work. This approach envisages action on prevention, protection, enforcement, remedies, guidance, training, and awareness raising and takes into account third parties as both victims and perpetrators.

Articles 4(3) and 9 of the convention require member states to recognise the different and complementary roles and functions of governments, employers and workers, and their respective organisations, taking into account the varying nature and extent of their responsibilities.

It is not yet possible to say with certainty when the convention will come into force in the UK or the form it will take, as the government still has to draw up an instrument of ratification and deposit it with the ILO. We are concerned as to how and when the implementation will be effected, given this government’s attitude towards workers’ rights is ambivalent at best. Once that has happened, however, it will then take effect 12 months later.

To read the full convention document, click here.