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 Health & Safety in Scotland


23 Oct 2015: Violence at work survey October 2015 (pdf)

Big increase in assaults on public service workers

UNISON Scotland's report Violence at Work: A Survey of UNISON employers and Staff in Scotland 2015 (published today 23 October 2015) shows an increase of 1,227 assaults on public service workers compared with 2014.

The total recorded assaults on public sector workers in Scotland in 2015 was 38,279. This compares to 20,000 in 2006.

UNISON report included a survey, to ask what staff had suffered, how they had felt about it, and what action their managers had taken to try to make sure they were safer in the future. Nine out of ten people who responded to this survey were women, and well over half were age between 45 – 60 years old.

UNISON Members told us

  • “patient was verbally abusive and looming over me ” 
  • “Bitten, being threatened with 'weapons', head butted, kicked, things been thrown at me, verbal abuse, pushed and shoved, cornered with threatening behaviour”
  • “Grabbed, attempted strangle, punched, slapped, glasses broken”
  • “an irate male jumped onto myself while I was seated at a computer”
  • “Screamed and swore at. Items thrown at me. Kicked punched bitten scratched nipped. Hair pulled. Strangled. Pushed, walking sticked wacked across me."
  • “Too many incidents to describe.”

UNISON members also told us they felt undervalued, frightened, afraid, disrespected and sick. One summed it up as being “really upset and in tears most nights after work.”                                

See full report here: Violence at Work: A Survey of UNISON employers and Staff in Scotland 2015
Press release: Friday 23 Oct 2015 - Big increase in assaults on public service workers, says UNISON


23 Oct 2014: Violence at work survey October 2014 (pdf)

UNISON Scotland's annual violence at work survey of public sector employers shows continuing increases in the numbers of assaults on public sector staff in local government and the NHS, with all sectors either increasing or staying mainly the same.

A total figure of 37,052 assaults was reported - an increase of 3,363 compared with last year’s figures. Over the year Local Government assaults have increased by 850 to 15,729, and in Health there has been an increase of 2,439 from 12,618 in 2013 to 15,057.

Reporting systems, particularly in local government have improved a lot, but still show no consistency. We need to urge all councils to put the guidelines produced in 2010 by the Scottish Centre for Health Working Lives into practice, in the hope that the level of assaults can fall across Scotland.

Whatever the figures, and however they are collated, it is still clear that there continues to be an unacceptably high level of violence being perpetrated against public facing staff in Scotland. UNISON Scotland believes that attacks on any staff delivering public services should be treated under the law as serious assaults.


24 Oct 2013: Violence at work survey October 2013 (pdf)
UNISON Scotland's annual survey of violent incidents reported to public service employers shows continuing increases in the numbers of assaults on public sector staff in local government and the NHS, despite an overall fall in numbers, due to those given by the police service.

Our analysis of the figures received for 2013 shows a total figure of 33,689, a drop of 1,055 in the level of assaults compared with last year’s figures. This can partly be explained by an decrease of 3,074 in the number of assaults recorded for police officers and staff, following the merger into the new Police Scotland authority.

Over the year local government assaults have increased by 730 to 14,879, and in health there has been an increase of 1,744, from 10,974 in 2012 to 12,618, despite a fall the previous year.

Press release: embargo 25 Oct 2013

Click here for details of events around Scotland

25 Oct 2012: Violence at work survey October 2012 (pdf)
UNISON Scotland annual survey of violent incidents reported to public service employers shows that 34,739 staff reported violent incidents last year - almost 15,000 more than when it was first conducted in 2006.

Press release - Public service staff face 'toxic cocktail' of cuts and violence at work - UNISON

March 2012: The Reality of Sickness Absence
Briefing 21: Bargaining - Sickness Absence Survey
To find out the reality behind the headlines, UNISON Scotland surveyed members to discover their experience of sickness absence in Scotland’s public sector.

Key points:

  • There is plenty of misleading data on sickness absence.
  • Public sector suffers from more long term absence.
  • UNISON survey shows most staff come to work when ill.
  • Sickness absence policies are poor and badly applied.
  • Stress is major cause of absence yet polices not effective.
  • Better sickness absence policies would help staff to return to work.

The survey shows that the reality in Scotland is a long way from the ‘sickie culture’ that is often portrayed. Absence rates have been falling over time and it is a myth that there are easy savings from new policies that assume that sickness absence is mostly skiving. Positive sickness absence policies are important, but there is most to gain from tackling the causes of absence, particularly stress, and helping people return to work.

14 Oct 2011: Violence at work survey October 2011 (pdf)
UNISON report shows nearly 28,000 violent incidents against Scottish public service workers last year. Press release

Workers Memorial DaySCOTLAND TO REMEMBER THOSE KILLED AT WORK - AND TO FIGHT FOR THE LIVING 28 April: Click here for events across Scotland

22 Dec 2010: UNISON Scotland urges MSPs to support Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill UPDATE: Bill defeated in Parliament on Wed 22 Dec 2010 by 75 votes to 42. Thanks to all who emailed MSPs in support.

It's not part of the job - end violence against workers20 Dec 2010: Campaign for the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill in Scottish Parliament
End violence on workers. Email your MSPs to support the Bill when it is debated on Wed 22 Dec 2010.

25 Oct 2010: Rising tide of assaults at work ‘must be tackled’ says UNISON - 3000 more violent incidents than last year

Violence update survey October 2010 (pdf)

Health & Safety Update - March 2010 (pdf)

UNISON Scotland Health & Safety Conference 9 October 2009

UNISON Scotland Health & Safety Conference 11 November 2008

Action needed on rising violence against public service staff
Violent Assaults on Public Service Staff in Scotland - Follow up Survey 2008 Word doc

Working with HIV and AIDS: Guide for Branches (pdf)

Workers Memorial Day 28 April

Health & Safety Bulletin 4 April 2008 (pdf)

Previous bulletins and reports

Workplace Health and Safety Reps

To be effective in our fight for safe working conditions we need people in every work place to act as advisors and watchdogs on health and safety issues. You'll get full training and support from UNISON as well as paid time off from your employer to carry out your union role. Find out more about becoming a health and safety rep in the arrowUNISON UK Getting Involved section.

Branch health and safety officers

Every year each branch elects a branch health and safety officer. To find out more about becoming a health and safety officer go to the UNISON UKarrowGet active! pages.


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