Blog: Time to stop violence and abuse in the workplace

Today I was proud to launch UNISON’s violence at work charter in Parliament – alongside dozens of MPs who turned out to lend their support. The charter was explicitly designed to support our members in the community, voluntary and housing sectors, but the experiences of our members there are all too often replicated elsewhere.

Every day public service workers are being abused, threatened or assaulted at work. It’s shocking and unacceptable, yet it’s the daily reality for all too many of those who work to serve and support us;

In a recent UNISON survey conducted of our members in the community sector, almost half told us they had experienced an incident of violence or aggression at work in the previous two years. These incidents include being punched, pushed or kicked while carrying out their jobs.

“A service user punched me in the face”

“A client threatened to slit my throat”

“I was hit by a service user when pregnant and have been scratched, punched and kicked by service users numerous times”.

These are just some of the genuine experiences of UNISON members. Yet in addition to these more extreme incidents, it is becoming clear that lower level violence and verbal abuse is, for some, seen as a routine part of their working lives. Clearly this has to stop.

UNISON will continue to support all of our members who are treated so appalling in the workplace, which is why we’re launching our ‘Violence at Work Charter’ today. It’s a list of ten basic actions which employers can take to improve safety at work – including training, support for victims of violence and monitoring of incidents.

Achievable, concrete steps that can make such a huge difference to those affected. I’m pleased to say that dozens of employers have already signed up and shown their commitment to improving the working lives of their staff.

Together, we can end the scandal of violence at work – today’s charter is an important step in that campaign.