Calls for States to ratify international convention on violence and harassment at work


Wed 11 Dec 2019

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is calling on member States to ratify the Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work and the Violence and Harassment Recommendation.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is calling on member States (including New Zealand) to ratify the Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work and the Violence and Harassment Recommendation.

The ILO adopted the Convention (C190) and the Recommendation (R206) in June 2019.

The Convention sets international standards for the rights of all people to be free from violence and harassment at work and recognises that violence and harassment at work can constitute a human rights violation or abuse.

The ILO has 187 member States. Governments which ratify the Convention are required to develop national laws addressing workplace violence, implement prevention initiatives, provide access to remedies such as complaint mechanisms and protection to victims and whistleblowers, and monitor work in this area.

The Convention (No. 190) specifically addresses gender-based violence and domestic violence:

"Acknowledging that gender-based violence and harassment disproportionately affects women and girls, and recognizing that an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach, which tackles underlying causes and risk factors, including gender stereotypes, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and unequal gender-based power relations, is essential to ending violence and harassment in the world of work, and 

Noting that domestic violence can affect employment, productivity and health and safety, and that governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations and labour market institutions can help, as part of other measures, to recognize, respond to and address the impacts of domestic violence, and The ILO is the UN agency focused on work."

The articles of the Convention outline expectations. Article 4 states:

"1. Each Member which ratifies this Convention shall respect, promote and realize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

2. Each Member shall adopt, in accordance with national law and circumstances and in consultation with representative employers’ and workers’ organizations, an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach for the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. Such an approach should take into account violence and harassment involving third parties, where applicable, and includes:

(a) prohibiting in law violence and harassment; ensuring that relevant policies address violence and harassment;

(c) adopting a comprehensive strategy in order to implement measures to prevent and combat violence and harassment;

(d) establishing or strengthening enforcement and monitoring mechanisms;

(e) ensuring access to remedies and support for victims;

(f) providing for sanctions;

(g) developing tools, guidance, education and training, and raising awareness, in accessible formats as appropriate; and

(h) ensuring effective means of inspection and investigation of cases of violence and harassment, including through labour inspectorates or other competent bodies.

3. In adopting and implementing the approach referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article, each Member shall recognize the different and complementary roles and functions of governments, and employers and workers and their respective organizations, taking into account the varying nature and extent of their respective responsibilities."

The remaining Articles in the Convention detail expectations related to the principles. ILO Recommendation 206 provides further guidance, information and detail to supplement the Convention around protections and rights for workers.

Shauna Olney, Chief, Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch, ILO said:

"Changing attitudes is never easy but is essential if we are to eliminate violence and harassment from the world of work. The adoption of strong instruments like this sends a powerful message. It makes the invisible visible, acknowledging the pervasiveness and unacceptability of violence and harassment.

We need to tackle the underlying causes, including multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, gender stereotypes and unequal gender-based power relations.

Workplace risk assessments, as set out in the Convention and detailed further in the Recommendation, can also help to change attitudes because they can take into account factors that increase the likelihood of violence and harassment (such as gender, cultural and social norms). The Convention and Recommendation also call for training and awareness-raising measures."

A number of countries have already indicated they intend to ratify the Convention and Recommendation.

The ILO is the United Nations agency for the world of work. A tripartite agency, the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes. Its main aims are to "promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues."

Related news

UN Women has recently published the discussion paper What will it take? Promoting cultural change to end sexual harassment (2019). The paper examines cultural change needed to end sexual harassment. It offers guidance to policymakers, employers, and universities with a focus on the needs of the victim-survivors. It focuses on five areas for cultural change:

  • "training to dislodge entrenched and discriminatory ideas on gender;
  • victim-focused work where victim and survivors lead;
  • rational reporting in order to remove judgment, retaliation, ensure victim safety and consequences for abusers;
  • zero tolerance against all forms of sexual harassment, both in principle and in practice; and
  • collective ownership of the need to change culture and attitudes and to establish common values, including the need for bystanders to intervene."

WHO also recently published RESPECT women: Preventing violence against women (2019). RESPECT is a framework to promote the evidence-informed strategies to prevent violence against women. It outlines seven strategies:

  • Relationships skills strengthened
  • Empowerment of women
  • Services ensured
  • Poverty reduced
  • Environments made safe
  • Child and adolescent abuse prevented
  • Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms

Eleven United Nations, bilateral and multilateral agencies worked together to launch the framework, including a set of infographics.

Related media

Purea Nei report focuses on changing the culture of the legal profession, NZ Law Society News, 22.01.2020

It’s time to #RatifyC190, International Trade Union Confederation, 22.11.2019

The #MeToo Movement’s Powerful New Tool, Inter Press Services, 19.10.2019

ILO: New Treaty to Protect Workers from Violence, Harassment, Human Rights Watch, 21.06.2019

Image: Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

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