The National University of Ireland Galway recently conducted a survey to find out the level of workplace ill treatment that was experienced, witnessed or perpetrated at work.
Over 1,500 participants took part in this survey, who were in employment over the past 2 years. The term “Ill treatment” was measured by a list of 21 behaviours, grouped under the following 3 major types:
- unreasonable management
- incivility or disrespect
- violence or injury
The survey found that around 43% of the participants suffered at least 1 type of ill treatment at work. 36.7% of the participants experienced some form of unreasonable management, closely followed by 31.3% of participants experiencing incivility or disrespect. Alarmingly, 2.6% of the participants suffered actual physical violence whilst working (NUI Galway, 2018).
The research also highlighted the fact that overall nearly half of respondents witnessed at least one type of ill treatment in the last two years. Meanwhile 17% of the respondents admitted that they were responsible in perpetrating at least one act of ill treatment.
This is one of the first major studies of its kind to be carried out in Ireland. It looked for links between ill treatment at workplace due to factors such as gender, ethnicity and age. Women were more likely to experience at least two types of ill treatment on a daily basis. In terms of ethnicity, the study found that workers experiencing violence are seven times greater for Asian workers in Ireland compared to any other ethnic groups. Employees aged between 35-44 were at the greatest risk for experiencing violence whilst working.
When comparing different sectors it’s reported that Health and Social services experienced the highest percentage of violence or injury. Those who work in voluntary or public sector workplaces were more likely to experience unreasonable management and violent incidents.
According to the report, employees were more exposed to violence from clients compared to colleagues. It did state that clients could be patients with mental health issues or psychiatric conditions.
Conclusions from the survey indicated that some felt reporting an issue would not help solve the situation. They cited that “policies were too complicated” in many instances.
“It is alarming to see the amount of people who felt there was nothing to be done, even if they reported an issue. Everyone has the right to be respected at work. Any form of ill-treatment is completely unacceptable” said IOSH Vice-President Louise Hosking (NUI Galway, 2018).
Duty of Care
Employers should foster a positive workplace culture. Previous research suggests that ill treatment at work resulted in increased stress levels. This directly affects the productivity of the organisation (NUI Galway, 2018). According to the Health and Safety Authority, every employer has a duty to manage and conduct work activities in such a way as to prevent any improper conduct or behaviour that’s likely to put an employee’s safety, health or welfare at risk.
Despite policies being in place to protect the workers, it was not being fully utilised by the managers. This results in ill treatment becoming normalised. A workplace culture can become toxic if ill treatment is considered normal. Especially when serious assaults in certain sectors were being classed as ‘part of the job’. The study by NUI Galway states that employers should ensure that the policies they have set at work are clearly implemented in order to reduce ill treatment, including a robust lone working policy that helps protect the safety of employees when working alone in public facing job roles. The research found that when policies at work are clearly implemented, it helps to reduce ill treatment. It also creates a positive work culture, improves productivity and employees feel valued knowing that their well-being is important to the organisation.
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