The Bichard Inquiry has identified the importance of employers carrying out thorough checks for staff who work with children.1 But the fact remains that violent employees are present in almost every type of trade, profession or industry, and violence in the UK workplace is massively under-reported.
There were 849,000 incidents of violence at work between 2002-20003 (431,000 assaults and 418,000 threats).2 Yet, employers are often guilty of either ignoring potential violence or simply not knowing what to do about it.
The Liverpool Echo ran a disturbing front page story that suggested employers were not carrying out Criminal Record Office checks on employees. One of the reasons given for this was that the checks take too long, and few employers have the time or staff to carry out such a search.
In an increasingly litigious workplace, such admissions are both worrying, not to mention potentially very costly.
Hiring staff is a high-risk activity, and inter-employee violence, while not new, is a growing problem.
Facts and figures
Statistics published by the Home Office indicate that 35,000 people are violently attacked in the workplace each year. Data on injuries caused by violence at work collected through reports to the RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995) contact centre, indicated that during the financial year 2003/04, two people were fatally injured in violent incidents at work, 998 received major injuries and 5,396 received injuries which, while not considered major, caused them to be off work for at least three days.3
A TUC survey of 5,300 public, private and voluntary sector employees has suggested workplace bullying contributes to the loss of 18 million working days every year,4 and anecdotal figures suggest there are as many as 2,000 to 3,000 violent incidents between employees and former employees per year (excluding sexual assault).
In cases of violence, men are far more likely to be both the victims and perpetrators within the workplace.
So, is inter-employee violence a growing phenomenon in Europe and UK, and, if it is, what can we do about it?
Historically, violence in the workplace has been viewed as an occupational hazard. Today, it is recognised as a health and safety hazard, and people are less likely to put up with threatening or aggressive behaviour.
While certain professions have been identified as being more