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Monday 26 November 2007

Employers' failure to deal with violence at work could risk legal action - UNISON

UNISON, Scotland's public service union, has issued guidelines to its branches detailing a number of different ways that staff can use the law to prevent assaults, convict offenders and sue employers for compensation.

In a presentation to Scotland's Voluntary Sector staff tomorrow (Tuesday 27 November), UNISON's Scottish Organiser, Dave Watson will outline four different legal options for staff faced with violence in the workplace.

Dave Watson said "Regrettably, research by UNISON shows that many employers are failing to effectively address the problem of violence at work. Therefore we need to look at other measures we can take to protect members. We have identified a number of legal avenues that staff can use to pursue criminal prosecutions against assailants - for assault or for harassment; to sue either employers, or indeed assailants, for civil damages; or best of all to use health and safety legislation to ensure proper risk assessments are done by employers and measures are implemented to prevent attacks.

"While, compensation and prosecution claims don't by themselves prevent the violence, there is considerable evidence that the threat of claims has reduced the incidence of abuse. Most notably, publicity about recent actions on behalf of traffic wardens against abusive BMW drivers in England has led to a remarkable reduction in abuse!"

The conference is being run by the Scottish Government and is free to those involved in the voluntary sector. It features contributions from practitioners and highlights resources available to protect staff in the workplace. It is part of the successful partnership between the STUC and the Government to raise awareness of verbal and physical abuse in the workplace.

Dave said "While there is no concrete evidence that the risks in the Community and Voluntary Sector(CVS) are worse than elsewhere, there is evidence of underreporting in the care sector - which is a major employer for the CVS. And elsewhere in the public services the trend of incidents is increasing - not decreasing."

Note to editors - the advice is on the UNISON scotland website at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/violencelegal.html


For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)