What should my employer do to protect me?

Employers have clear legal obligations to prevent threats and violence towards you at work. These hazards should be tackled in the same way as any other risk you face at work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines violence at work as "any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted by a member of the public in the course of their employment."

Joint European guidance on Preventing Working Harassment and Violence released in 2012 says that employers should:

  • provide a clear statement to staff and service users that harassment and violence will not be tolerated and will be treated as a disciplinary offence (up to and including dismissal or, if appropriate, criminal action);
  • provide information on how to report harassment and violence;
  • spell out clearly what constitutes unacceptable behaviour by managers, other workers, service users and members of the public;
  • explain clearly their overall approach to preventing and dealing with the risks of harassment and violence, including training;
  • advise workers on the laws that apply to them at work;
  • advise victims to keep a diary of all incidents (and possible witnesses to them) and copies of anything relevant;
  • require all complaints to be backed up by supporting information;
  • spell out that all those involved will receive an impartial hearing and fair treatment and that the dignity and privacy of all will be protected, i.e. information will not be shared with people who are not involved in the case;
  • make clear that false (i.e. malicious) accusations will not be tolerated and may result in disciplinary action;
  • explain clearly what support is available to the victim(s) (including helping the victim return to work if necessary); and
  • explain how the policy will be implemented, reviewed and monitored.

Your employer should make it clear that there is zero tolerance of threats and violence towards staff at work and take all necessary steps to enforce this policy, including spelling it out to suppliers and customers when required.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.