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1 in 5 people affected by violence and harassment in the workplace – report

Cape Town – Violence and harassment in the work place has affected more than one in five people, a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report has revealed this week.

According to the UN agency, almost 23% of employees have experienced violence and harassment at work, whether physical, psychological or sexual, according to a new analysis by the ILO, Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) and Gallup.

Although the report said violence and harassment at work was difficult to measure, it found that only half of victims worldwide had disclosed their experiences to someone else, and often only after they had suffered more than one form of violence and harassment.

The most common reasons given for non-disclosure were “waste of time” and “fear for their reputation”.

Women were more likely to share their experiences than men – 60.7% compared to 50.1% – said the report.

Globally, 17.9% of employed men and women said they had experienced psychological violence and harassment in their working life, and 8.5% had faced physical violence and harassment, with more men than women experiencing this, according to the report.

Of the respondents, 6.3% reported facing sexual violence and harassment, with women being particularly exposed.

The groups most likely to be affected by different types of violence and harassment include young people and migrant workers.

Young women were twice as likely as young men to have faced sexual violence and harassment, and migrant women were almost twice as likely as non-migrant women to report sexual violence and harassment, the report revealed.

“More than three out of five victims said they had experienced violence and harassment at work multiple times, and for the majority, the most recent incident took place within the last five years.”

“It’s painful to learn that people face violence and harassment not just once but multiple times in their working lives,” said Manuela Tomei, ILO assistant director-general of governance, rights and dialogue.

“Psychological violence and harassment is the most prevalent across countries and women are particularly exposed to sexual violence and harassment. The report tells us about the enormity of task ahead to end violence and harassment in the world of work. I hope it will expedite action on the ground and towards the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190.”

Andrew Rzepa of Gallup said: “Gathering robust data on this highly sensitive issue is challenging but essential. For the first time, this report lifts the veil on this pervasive problem which plagues more than one in five workers globally. For too long, companies and organisations have been unaware or unwilling to tackle violence and harassment in the workplace. This dataset provides a baseline that we can all use to track much-needed progress on this vital safety issue.”

Sarah Cumbers, director of evidence and insight at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, said: “To tackle global safety challenges as difficult and deep-rooted as violence and harassment at work, it is critical to have good data to understand the extent of the problem and to identify those most at risk, especially in places where little reliable data may have existed previously.”

The ILO-LRF-Gallup study was based on interviews conducted in 2021 with nearly 75 000 employed people aged 15 or older in 121 countries and territories, as part of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll.