There is a window of opportunity to take decisive action. This month, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency responsible for setting global legal standards for working conditions, will complete negotiations on a new international law to prohibit, prevent and remedy violence and harassment. If the negotiations are successful, the new convention will place clear responsibilities on employers and governments for tackling the scourge of violence and harassment in the world of work. Workers, too, will have responsibilities to refrain from acts of violence and harassment and to comply with any policies, procedures or other steps taken by their employers to prevent it.
Whilst there are differences to settle on the final content of the new convention and recommendation, there is broad support for its adoption amongst trade unions, governments and some employers. Ahead of the negotiations, some companies have made their support public, demonstrating how measures can be taken not only to prevent and respond to workplace violence and harassment, but also to address the effects of domestic violence on the world of work. Such measures include paid leave for victims of domestic violence, easy access to information, advice services or counselling, or varying working hours to minimise the risk of stalking by violent ex-partners. And companies are increasingly engaging in collective negotiations with trade unions at enterprise, sectoral and global levels to ensure that the people who work, or seek to work for them, are protected and free from fear.
Violence and harassment in the world of work is a global problem, requiring global solutions. The negotiations at the ILO are timely, not least as the UN agency celebrates 100 years of its existence this year. Trade unions were campaigning for this new law long before the painful revelations of #MeToo. Our government and employers must now play their part in making this a reality. No one should go to work in fear of experiencing violence and harassment.
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