Violence and bullying at work


Published: 11 Dec 2003



The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published information on their approach to tackling violence and psychological harassment at work.

The HSE defines work-related violence (WRV) as "any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work" and makes the following points.

  • Under s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA), all employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This duty includes risks arising from WRV.
  • Employers should manage WRV in the same way as any health and safety issue.
  • Anyone who works directly with the public has an increased risk of violence, including workers in the protective services, eg police, fire and security personnel; health and welfare workers; teachers; staff in take-away food outlets; retail and bar staff; transport workers; and managers of small and medium sized organisations.

In March 2000, HSC embarked on a three year WRV programme. The next stage will run from 2004 to 2006.

The HSE describes bullying as a form of organisational violence and as such a potential source of work-related stress. The report raises the following points.

  • Bullying is primarily an employee relations issue, best dealt with by employers’ internal grievance and disciplinary procedures before it becomes a risk to employees’ health.
  • The HSE is currently developing management standards, including a standard that deals with relationships at work, as part of HSC’s Stress Priority Programme.
  • The duty to manage work-related stress falls under employers’ general duty of care to employees under the HSWA and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) which requires risk assessments.

The guidance can be accessed here.