The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an alarming increase in violence against women, both physically and online, while they are significantly more isolated from potential resources and opportunities for help. Domestic violence has increased by a third during the pandemic. Evidence also shows that remote working has meant that work-related sexual harassment has become more prevalent online.
To get a clear sense of the scale of the problem, UNI Europa commissioned a survey as part of the EU co-funded project “Eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work”. The survey was addressed to trade unions and employers who were either jointly or individually involved in preventing gender-based violence and harassment, domestic violence impacting the workplace and third-party violence as part of broader health and safety measures.
The survey, in which 228 trade unions and 18 employers participated, found that the most prominent impact of increased teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence was that it was harder for managers to recognise the signs of domestic violence (57 per cent and 75 per cent respectively). On the trade union side, 76 per cent reported forms of verbal harassment, 53 per cent sexual harassment and 52 per cent threats or intimidation directed at females workers as the most widespread forms of abuse in the workplace.
Both trade unions and employers see fear, stress and anxiety as the most prominent psychosocial risks of domestic violence as a workplace issue (79 per cent and 88 per cent respectively). A strong bipartisan call for an EU Directive on Psychosocial Risks emerged from the survey (91 per cent and 100 per cent respectively) to mitigate psychosocial risks.
In general, trade unions are significantly more enthusiastic about the potential of collective bargaining in preventing violence and harassment in the workplace than the employers (72 per cent and 57 per cent respectively). The majority of both trade union and employers witnessed the development of relevant joint statements or documents for their sector (75 per cent and 83 per cent respectively), with examples such as policies, agreements with employers, dissemination of protocols and guidelines.
In November, UNI Europa and its social partners signed first-of-its-kind guidelines on eliminating violence and harassment in the workplace. And we remain committed to broadening and implementing the guidelines to protect workers from violence and harassment.