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Survey reveals shocking verbal abuse statistics

11 July 2021

CESAFETY ANALYSED HSE data to reveal a concerning trend of workplace violence. Following the reopening of offices in the UK, the occupational health and safety specialists have compiled advice for industry professionals who are looking for support in their fight against workplace violence.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the issue to the forefront; raising the topic of aggression and violence towards staff members. 

This has come into conversation after a steep increase in reports of staff being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of violence, and even some instances of physical assaults over the course of the global pandemic.

To look deeper into how employees deal with threats to their safety in the workplace, occupational health and safety specialists CE Safety have analysed data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and figures from Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw).

Their findings have highlighted how these issues can affect staff, productivity and the overall culture of workplaces.

HSE have released the most recent annual data on violent incidents in the workplace, which was collected up to 18th of March 2020.

688,000 incidents of violence took place in the workplace in the UK – 389,000 of which were threats and 299,000 were assaults - comparable to 739,000 incidents the year previous.

Looking at the figures from Usdaw, after surveying 2,700 staff members, they found that 88% of workers had experienced verbal abuse, 60% had been threatened by a customer, and 9% had been subjected to assault. 

Usdaw also saw abuse of shop workers doubled in the first month of the pandemic; and this trend didn’t slow down as time went on.

With little to no variation in the figures and no visible trends to note; CE Safety has highlighted that the issue at hand is crystal clear. 

Things need to be put in place to ensure that staff safety is of the utmost importance when staff are in their place of employment and should feel safe whilst doing their job. 

CE Safety highlights the consequences of violence and harassment in the workplace can have on employees. 

CE Safety’s Gary Ellis said, “The effect is insurmountable. For the victims of workplace violence, the lasting effects can result in physical pain and trauma, as well as overall well-being.

“From self-esteem to stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and the possibility of loss of income due to aforementioned issues. 

“From a business standpoint, the effects can be equally negative. Struggling to recruit new staff, to low morale subsequently resulting in low business performance and overall bad business reputation.”

In fact, The Breathe Culture Economy Report 2021 revealed that a toxic workplace culture costs the UK economy £20.2 billion a year. Also, almost a third (27%) of workers have left their jobs in the past year due to a negative company culture. Ellis added: “Unfortunately these worrying stories about violence against frontline workers, especially in the wake of Covid-19, have become normalised and almost accepted as part of the job. But, as we’ve learnt, the impact on the wellbeing of our staff, on our businesses and society as a whole is far reaching and unacceptable. 

“As offices and workplaces begin to open up when restrictions are lifted, there are changes we all need to make to ensure our employees are not going back into this kind of culture as the norm. While society is beginning to shift its overall attitude, employers must do all they can to protect their workers in the meantime. 

“Put those risk assessments in place, do the necessary training, alter your policies to make them robust and fit for purpose. This is how people spend their lives and we are responsible for putting their welfare at the forefront of working practices.”

For more information, visit https://cesafety.co.uk/violence-in-the-workplace/