Employers in Ireland are being urged to implement clear and effective policies on workplace ill-treatment.
A new survey, led by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, reveals the scale of the issue for the first time in Ireland.
The survey reveals that more than two in five people say they have experienced a form of ill-treatment at work, while one in 12 have experienced and/or witnessed physical violence – despite most organisations having policies in place to prevent it.
The survey of 1,500 people, interviewed in their own homes, is the first study of its kind in Ireland and found that:
43% of respondents reported having experienced ill-treatment, while 47% said they had witnessed it and 17% stated they had perpetrated it.
37% reported having experienced unreasonable management, 42% stated they had witnessed it and 14% stated they had perpetrated it.
3% reported having experienced incivility or disrespect, 38% said they had witnessed it and 9.5% stated they had perpetrated it.
6% reported having experienced physical violence, 5% said they had witnessed it and 0.5% stated they had perpetrated it.
New guidance has now been produced by IOSH to help employers ensure their staff do not suffer the effects of ill-treatment.
IOSH Vice-President Louise Hosking said: “It is alarming to see the amount of people who felt there was nothing to be done, even if they reported an issue. Everyone has the right to be respected at work. Any form of ill-treatment is completely unacceptable.
“It can have a huge impact on an individual and the team around them, causing stress and tension which ultimately has an effect on the business as a whole. Ill-treatment at work is linked to physical and mental health issues, which in turn affects the decisions people make and increases risks to themselves and those around them. Together with the guide, we hope we can support businesses to create healthy work environments in which their people can feel supported and the business can in turn thrive.”
The survey also revealed that:
Public sector employees are five times more likely to experience violence than employees in other sectors.
Women are significantly more likely to experience ill-treatment on two or more occasions per day, with the perpetrator often being another woman.
There is a correlation between ethnicity and ill treatment: workers of black, mixed or Asian ethnicity have the highest levels of experiencing and/or witnessing violence; Asian workers are seven times more likely to experience violence at work than white workers; ill-treatment of black and Asian workers is usually perpetrated by individuals of the same ethnicity.
Some workers believe reporting an issue would not help and could even worsen their situation. They believed middle managers were either unable or unwilling to act on complaints, or that policies were too complicated.
Dr Margaret Hodgins, lead researcher of the survey from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “This research is extremely important to Ireland.
“The Health and Safety Authority has previously conducted research into bullying in Ireland (bullying is defined as repeated inappropriate behaviour, which a reasonable person would regard as undermining an individual’s right to respect and dignity at work).
“However, the Irish Workplace Behaviour Survey goes much further, looking at the prevalence of unreasonable management, incivility or disrespect and violence and aggression.”