Aggression in the Workplace - What the law says

As an employer, it is important to understand your legal responsibilities when it comes to addressing and preventing aggression in the workplace.

author

James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.

Date

20 April 2023

Updated

11 July 2024
3 min read
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Aggression in the Workplace - What the law says
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Aggression in the workplace is a serious issue that can have significant negative consequences for both employees and employers.

From verbal abuse and physical assault to intimidation and threats, workplace aggression can cause a range of physical, emotional, and psychological harm.

Under UK law, employers have a legal duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees.

This duty extends to protecting employees from workplace aggression, which is classified as a form of workplace violence. Employers must take reasonable steps to prevent workplace aggression from occurring and to respond appropriately if it does occur.

 

What Is Workplace Aggression?

Workplace aggression is defined as any incident where an employee is threatened, assaulted, harassed, intimidated or verbally abused in circumstances relating to their work, creating a risk to their physical or emotional well-being in the workplace.

Workplace aggression can occur between employees, customers or clients, or from anyone else who interacts with employees during their work.

It can have serious consequences for the victims, including physical harm, emotional trauma, and stress-related illnesses.

 

What Is Your Responsibility As An Employer To Manage Aggression At Work?

UK law places a legal duty on employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, including protecting them from workplace aggression.

Employers are required to take reasonable steps to prevent aggression from occurring and to respond appropriately if it does occur.

This includes;

  • having policies and procedures in place,
  • providing training for employees,
  • addressing factors that contribute to aggression,
  • ensuring the safety and well-being of affected employees,
  • reporting incidents to appropriate authorities,
  • conducting investigations,
  • providing support for affected employees.

Failure to prevent or address workplace aggression can have significant legal consequences for employers, including potential civil lawsuits and criminal charges.

 

Preventing Aggression in the Workplace

Preventing aggression in the workplace requires a proactive approach.

Employers should have policies and procedures in place that aim to prevent and address aggression in the workplace.

These policies and procedures should be communicated to all employees, and employees should be trained on how to identify and report instances of aggression in the workplace.

Employers should also take steps to address any factors that may contribute to workplace aggression.

This could include implementing conflict resolution training, improving communication and leadership within the workplace, and addressing any issues related to job stress or workload.

 

Responding to Aggression in the Workplace

If an instance of aggression does occur in the workplace, employers have a legal responsibility to respond appropriately.

This includes taking steps to ensure the safety and well-being of any affected employees, reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities, and conducting an investigation into the incident.

For tips on reporting aggressive incidents, visit this page from the Health & Safety Executive. 

Employers should also take steps to support any employees who have been affected by workplace aggression.

This could include providing counselling or other support services, offering flexible work arrangements, and taking steps to prevent retaliation or further aggression from occurring.

 

Support Available For Employers Dealing With Aggression At Work

Support Available For Employers Dealing With Aggression At Work

Employers who are dealing with aggression in the workplace can access a range of support services and resources to help them address the issue. Here are some examples:

  1. Health and Safety Executive (HSE): The HSE provides information and guidance on managing violence and aggression in the workplace, including risk assessments and best practices.
  2. ACAS: The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provides free and impartial advice and guidance on workplace issues, including bullying and harassment.
  3. CIPD: The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) provides a range of resources and guidance on dealing with bullying and harassment in the workplace, including case studies and advice from experts.
  4. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Many employers offer EAPs as part of their employee benefits package, which can provide confidential counselling and support services for employees affected by workplace aggression.
  5. Trade Unions: Trade unions can provide advice and representation for employees who have experienced workplace aggression, and can work with employers to develop policies and procedures to prevent and address the issue.
  6. External consultants: Employers can engage external consultants who specialise in workplace aggression to conduct assessments, provide training, and offer advice on developing policies and procedures.
  7. Legal professionals: Employers may need to seek advice from legal professionals if they are facing legal action as a result of workplace aggression.

Employers need to take proactive steps to prevent and address workplace aggression and to seek support and advice when necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.

 

Legal Consequences of Workplace Aggression

Failure to prevent or address workplace aggression can have significant legal consequences for employers.

In addition to potential civil lawsuits, employers could face criminal charges if they fail to take appropriate action to prevent or address workplace aggression.

Employers may also be held liable for the actions of their employees if those actions are deemed to be related to workplace aggression.

This could include situations where an employee engages in aggressive behaviour towards a co-worker or customer. Employers may also be held responsible for any damages caused by the aggression.

 

Summary

Aggression in the workplace is a serious issue that requires a proactive and comprehensive approach from employers.

By taking steps to prevent and address workplace aggression, employers can create a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.

Failure to do so can have significant legal consequences, so employers need to understand their legal responsibilities and take appropriate action to prevent workplace aggression from occurring.

 

Next Steps

Neathouse Partners can help you to ensure that your business is fully equipped to deal with aggression in the workplace. If you would like support with managing and understanding your employer's responsibilities regarding training, reporting, policies, or investigations into aggressive behaviours experienced in the workplace, please call 01244 893776 to talk to our friendly team.

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