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Prioritize ratification of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention!

The groundbreaking treaty, adopted June 21, 2019 by government, employer, and worker members of the ILO, sets international legal standards for preventing and responding to violence and harassment at work. No one should have to tolerate violence and harassment, but for many workers – especially women – it is often an inevitable part of getting or keeping a job. The ILO Violence and Harassment Convention provides critical guidance to governments on how to prevent this violence and how to protect workers from stigma and retaliation so they can speak up and get the justice they deserve.

On June 12, 2020,Uruguay became the first countryto ratify the convention, which will enter into force with the second ratification. Argentina, Belgium, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Namibia, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, and Uganda have signaled their intention to ratify. Countries that ratify agree to align their national laws to the treaty’s standards and will be periodically reviewed for compliance by the ILO.

The #MeToo movement and attacks on health workers in the context of the coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the urgency of strong measures to prevent work-related violence and harassment and to ensure that survivors have access to services and remedies. The ILO has found that many existing laws exclude the workers most exposed to violence, for example domestic workers, farmworkers, and those in precarious employment. A2018 World Bank report found that 59 out of 189 economies had no specific legal provisions covering sexual harassment at work.

The treaty sets out minimum obligations for governments, including ensuring comprehensive national laws against harassment and violence at work and prevention measures such as information campaigns and identifying high-risk sectors. It also requires enforcement – such as inspections and investigations – and access to remedies for victims, including complaint systems, whistleblower protections, services, and compensation.

The treaty covers workers, trainees, workers whose employment has been terminated, job seekers, and job applicants, among others, and applies to both formal and informal sectors, public and private. It also includes a requirement to address violence and harassment involving third parties, such as clients, customers, or service providers.

The treaty addresses gender-based violence specifically, including the intersection of domestic violence and work, and the steps governments should take, including protections so that domestic violence survivors can seek help without losing their jobs.

Several global workers’ and women’s rights organizations are campaigning to promote these standards and urging governments to ratify the treaty quickly. These include global trade unions such as the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Domestic Workers’ Federation, and several other global unions. Workers who are marginalized – because of their sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or migration status, among other characteristics – are often at greatest risk of violence and have the least access to any help. Ratifying the convention and carrying it out is a major opportunity for countries to end these abuses and promote safety and dignity at work.

Photo: UN Women/ Amanda Voisard


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