How to purge h****sment and v******e at work

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 08:15 | By

A recent video showing a male employee raining blows on a female colleague at a suburban supermarket went viral sparking nationwide condemnations. The outright gender-based violence which is only a tip of the iceberg, serves as an indication of just how unsafe work environments are becoming for working mothers, wives, daughters, cousins and aunts.

It is important to note that similar incidents are rampant but not reported for fear of losing one’s source of livelihood or “spoiling” the organisation’s corporate image. Such acts of violence prompted the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to develop a draft international treaty, aimed at addressing violence and harassment at work.

Here are ways of containing violence at workplaces to promote respect, dignity and human rights among employees.

Employee-based pressure

Violence is not a remedy. Supervisors are expected to apply laid down human resource (HR) guidelines and procedures. Employees, through peer pressure, can collectively denounce violence at work to foster a good working relationships among themselves.

Since gender-based violence ranks high among other work-related offences, employees as a bloc should speak out against it. They need to equip themselves with conflict resolution skills that would be handy when and wherever required. In some organisations specific employees have been stigmatised as “violence in waiting” and must be shunned in volatile disagreements. 

Employers interventions

Employers are put on the spot whenever violence at work occurs, especially if it is not openly condemned, and perpetrators disciplined accordingly. Although HR manuals may have provisions on handling violence, past practices in some organisations are out of sync on the matter. Top management echelons are expected to put in place systems that would prevent violence and ensure that employees are safe at work. 

Trade unions involvement

Trade unions play a key role in promoting industrial harmony at the workplace while keeping employers on their toes on the implementation of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). At the work site, shop stewards can encourage employees to seek redress within the trade union structures instead of resorting to violence. Trade unions can be relied on to speak against violence and support its membership for remedies. They are positioned to push for regular publication of institutional violence data as red tag towards ending its occurrence.

Government legislation

Besides the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, a number of laws and policies point out the rights of workers to a safe and healthy working environment. Violence is however yet to stand out in the existing legislation. The Ministry of Labour should therefore be tasked to initiate the relevant legislation as it promotes zero-tolerance on violence at work environments.

The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement

Email: [email protected]

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