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Date Fri 29 December 2006

Stalker law can now be used to ward off harassment at work - UNISON

UNISON, Scotland's largest union has written to all its branches advising them to begin using legislation brought in to tackle stalking in 1997 to defend members who may be harassed either physically or verbally at work.

The Protection from Harassment Act has been recently strengthened by an amendment to other legislation, and more importantly by a string of case law victories. The union now thinks it will be more effective in allowing workers who suffer from harassment to take action against the harasser- whether they are representing the employer or a member of the public - or the employer themselves.

Dave Watson, UNISON's Scottish Organiser said "Legal action in cases of assault, bullying or harassment not only provides a potential remedy for the individual member - but can also act as a deterrent for others. With more than 20,000 violent incidents recorded in the NHS and local government in Scotland last year this legislation can play a part in delivering the comprehensive package of measures required to tackle harassment at work."

The remedies include pursuing damages through cases in the civil courts - similar to personal injury cases - or in extreme cases, getting a Non Harassment Order (NHO) - similar to an ASBO - awarded against the harasser, breach of which could land them in jail. This last would be a criminal conviction.

Although the provision can be used for criminal proceedings and therefore initiated by the police and pursued by the Procurator Fiscal, the real importance is the availability of civil proceedings whereby the member can initiate and pursue an effective remedy themselves with legal assistance from UNISON.

ENDS [Note for Editors - the briefing -Tackling Harassment at Work will soon be available on UNISONScotland's website. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/harassmentprotect.html

For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser - Policy) 07958 122 409(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)