Eurofound background paper on women and violence at work

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Condition
(Eurofound) research shows that women, especially younger women, are more
exposed to bullying than men, although this may be as much related to
circumstantial aspects of women's work ­ sectoral concentration, gender of
boss, level of customer contact, etc ­ as to gender per se.

Psychological violence (bullying, harassment, mobbing, etc) at work is
multifactoral and multidimensional. It has many different manifestations and
can originate from factors that are individual, situational, organisational or
social ­ or, indeed, from a combination of each. Evidence suggests that certain
features of work organisation are associated with higher levels of bullying,
such as:

  • low levels of autonomy;
  • high levels of work intensity;
  • working in frequent contact with customers, clients and other non-colleagues.

Though psychological violence is, by its nature, more cumulative in its impact
than physical violence, the data confirms that its negative health effects
measured in terms of absenteeism due to work-related ill-health are more severe
than those associated with physical workplace violence.

Levels of psychological violence are at least as prevalent as those of physical
violence in European workplaces. An awareness of this has led to calls for a
specific EU legislative instrument to cover psychological violence, as the main
existing EU workplace health and safety legislation (e.g. Directive EU/89/391)
was devised more with traditional, physical workplace risks in mind. However,
earlier this year, an EU-level social partner framework agreement on violence
at work provided a ‘soft law' solution that makes a separate EU legislative
initiative unlikely. Many Member State governments have been actively
developing legislative and non-legislative approaches to harassment/sexual
harassment in recent years.

Legislatively, workplace psychological violence has been dealt with under
various banners: that of workplace gender equality, non-discrimination, as well
as health and safety. This may explain why there has been a fusion of
traditional concerns with health and safety and quality of work with a newer
focus on dignity at work and associated concerns with combating discrimination.
Increasingly, the policy trend has been to assert the rights of European
workers ­ male and female ­ to a working life that is healthy and safe both
physically and psychologically and also one that ‘ensures respect for the
workers' human dignity, privacy and integrity' (European Parliament, 2001).
In this way, it can be said that the EU, as well as many individual Member
States, are striving to improve working conditions by raising the levels of
protection that workers can reasonably expect in their working lives.

Further info

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions