Being assualted at work is very upsetting event. How should you deal with violence at your place of work? We take a look at duties of employers to protect staff from this risk, and what to do if you are assaulted.
What is Violence at Work?
The HSE define work-related violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’
This includes verbal abuse and threats, as well as any form of physical abuse. This can include sexual harassment. Those most at risk from assault are employees who work with members of the public, or care users. However it is important to remember that violence can also be carried out by fellow staff members.
Our guide on swearing in the workplace highlights the importance of having proper HR policies to deal with offensive language.
Protecting Employees from Assault – Employers Duty of Care
Employers have a duty of care to their employees to make sure that they are reasonably safe at work.
Often when considering this duty, employers consider the need for work premises and any machinery to be safe. These are important factors, but employers must also consider risk posed by other people their staff will meet at work.
Higher risk jobs, like workers in care homes for adults with mental illness, should have assessed this risk. Specific policies and procedures should in place to reduce risk and prevent violent incidents. All employees should be trained on these measures.
It is important that these safety measures are reviewed regularly. Any accidents or near misses should be reported to your employer so that they can review if changes are needed.
What to Do If Assaulted at Work
If you are assaulted at work it’s likely to be a distressing experience. Its important to take the right action as quickly as possible. Follow our steps below as soon as possible after the incident.
- If an incident happens, report it to your manager. They should investigate the the event. If they don’t, make sure that you make notes of what happened. Write down the names of any witnesses, take photos of the area, and any injuries
- Should you wish to pursue the matter as a criminal offence, ask your employer to report it to the police. If they don’t do so, you can call the police yourself. For non-emergency calls, contact the police on 101.
- If you have worries about the incident happening again, discuss ways to prevent this with your manager.
Reporting a Crime
If you suffer violence from a member of the public or colleague, consider whether it is a crime. Forms of violence which constitute a criminal offence may include:
- Use of racially abusive language.
- Threats to kill.
- Physical violence. For example punching / kicking, especially if injury is caused.
In the event of being assaulted at work, you may want to consider a civil action against your employer. This can take the form of an employment tribunal claim or an injury claim. If you’ve been a victim of assault at work, you can consider the following actions.
Employment Tribunal Claim
If an employer fails to prevent violence at work, and you have to leave your job, this could be a breach of contract and lead to a constructive dismissal claim.
For example: Your employer knows a fellow worker threatens you and does not take action to prevent it. You are unable to work in those conditions and quit your job. This could be constructive dismissal and you could be entitled to compensation.
Get advice from an employment lawyer or your local Citizens Advice Bureau if you are thinking of making an employment tribunal claim.
Personal Injury at Work Claim
If you’re injured after being assaulted at work, you may be able to make an injury claim against your employer. Injuries may be physical or mental. For example, a diagnosed psychological condition such as anxiety or PTSD.
Your employer is responsible for ensuring your reasonable safety at work. If they have not taken action to keep you safe, they may be found to have acted negligently.
This means they could be responsible for your injury. Employers are responsible for the actions of other employees, even if criminal. That means if another employee assaults you at work your employer can be liable to compensate you for injury.
If you are considering this route, speak to an injury law specialist or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Workplace Violence: Everybody’s problem
Violence at work is a serious issue for employers. This can lead to injured workers requiring time off work, and employers may end up with legal claims against them.
The law is very much on the side of workers in terms of safety at work. This includes protection from violence. If you have any worries, speak to your employer and hopefully you can work together to prevent any problems. However if an incident happens and you are not happy with your employer’s response, remember you have many legal options.