Employers have a responsibility to end violence in the workplace, according to Jonathan Watts, HR director of Liberata.
Speaking to HR magazine, Watts said that violence at work encompasses various kinds of threatening behaviour.
"Violence is not just physical and, while thankfully our employees have not been victim to physical attacks, there are still instances where people can get quite nasty or verbally abusive," he said. "Having spent many years working on the frontline myself this is something that means a lot to me."
Liberata became the first private sector employer to sign Unison's End Violence at Work Charter last week.
To sign the charter organisations must provide evidence of how they meet 10 important standards for protecting employees from violent incidents. These include: clear incident-reporting and investigation procedures, continually collecting and monitoring data on violent incidents, and providing training to ensure staff know how to deal with threatening situations appropriately.
Watts said that signing the charter is a staple part of Liberata's wellbeing strategy. “We have a long and enduring relationship with Unison. As an organisation there is nothing more important than the health and wellbeing of our staff, so when we found out about Unison’s work on this it completely resonated with what we were doing," he said.
"We’re really proud to have been the first private [sector] organisation to sign the charter and to show that people are at the forefront of what we do. We’ve introduced a number of measures, such as offering counselling and training for managers and employees on what to do in these situations."
While employers will be doing some of these things already, Watts added that the charter is an opportunity for organisations to be more vocal about their stance: "Any good employer will have many of the measures on the charter in place already. We'd urge all other employers to sign the charter and show that they see this as a priority. HR has done a lot on and been vocal about other health and wellbeing initiatives, but sometimes there is a danger that the basics of health and safety can be overlooked."
Unison's acting national secretary for business, community and environment Donna Rowe-Merrima said that “no workers" should have to endure violence while doing their jobs but that "all too often they face verbal and physical intimidation or actual harm, with little support from managers".
Rowe-Merrima added that signing the charter would show staff that their employer is committed to tackling the issue: "Organisations are not only showing their commitment to reducing violent incidents at work and supporting their workforce, but reassuring employees they have the necessary procedures in place to support staff should violent incidents occur."
Unison's End Violence at Work Charter was established in 2017 following research that found 49% of its members in the community sector had experienced violence or aggression at work in the past two years. Ensuring private contractors comply with the principles set out in the charter has become an increasing priority for the union.