This chapter was added to the APPP in January 2020.
Harassment and violence towards staff can have a direct effect on their health and safety. It can also affect standards of work, performance, confidence and morale of all staff.
Staff in roles most at risk are those who:
- give a service;
- are carers;
- are in education;
- are involved in cash transactions;
- make deliveries / collections;
- work with people who may exhibit controlling behaviour towards others;
- represent authority.
Those committing acts of harassment and / or violence to staff may be adults with care and support needs, their family or friends or other members of the public. A person who commits such acts may be subject to a police investigation and criminal prosecution or other organisational sanctions, such as loss of service.
Managers and staff have a responsibility to abide by the policies and procedures of the service to:
- limit incidents of harassment and violence;
- respond to them appropriately;
- protect themselves and their colleagues;
- report the incident to the police with a view to prosecution, where appropriate.
2. What is Violence and Harassment?
Violence to staff is defined as abuse, threats or assaults in circumstances relating to their work. This includes:
- verbal abuse;
- offensive language;
- discriminatory or derogatory remarks, for example those which are racist, sexist or homophobic in nature;
- obscene gestures;
- threatening behaviour;
- physical attacks;
- spitting; and
- throwing objects.
Harassment is when a person causes alarm or distress to a member of staff; which can result in the victim being put in fear of violence. It can include repeated attempts to communicate with the member of staff, which are clearly unwanted and contact them in a way that the perpetrator expects to cause them distress or fear.
3. Assessing Risk from Violence and Aggression
The main factors that can create risk are:
- mental health disorders;
- drink and / or drugs;
- inherent aggression.
3.1 Violence risk assessments: staff responsibilities
Every adult who has a history of aggression / violence must have a care and support plan risk assessment. This should identify the risks and state the actions to be taken to minimise these risks. This should include family or friends who have such a known history, even if the adult themselves does not present a risk.
Information should be shared with other concerned organisations.
Systems in place to flag high risk cases should be activated.
Risk assessments should be regularly reviewed, care plans updated and actions taken to minimise risks.
Senior managers should be informed of risks and decisions documented and signed on case files.
3.2 Violence risk assessments: managers responsibilities
When carrying out a potential violence risk assessment, the following factors should be considered.
In the workplace:
- work activities;
- working conditions;
- design of the work activities and surrounding environment;
- frequency of situations that present a risk of workplace violence;
- severity of the potential consequences to the member of staff who may be exposed to a risk;
- information on workplace violence based on historical evidence and accurate information;
- measures already in place to prevent workplace violence.
The wider working environment:
- description of the department or area the manager or supervisor is in charge of;
- history of violence in the department / service area;
- activities in the department / service area that could expose workers to violence;
- circumstances that might increase the risk of violence in the department / service area;
- measures in place to address violence and the resources needed to implement them.
It is crucial for the safety and wellbeing of staff, adults and the protection of the organisation and wider community that risk assessments are fully documented. This includes clearly documented management oversight and decision making.
4. Management Responsibilities
Managers must assess the risk of both physical and non-physical assault to staff and take appropriate action to deal with it.
These steps may include:
- providing suitable training and information;
- improving the design of the working environment (such as physical security measures);
- making changes to aspects of staff roles;
- following the escalation policy of the organisation including reporting high risk cases of potential risk of violence and all incidents of actual physical and non-physical assault so that preventative action can be taken to ensure it is not repeated.
This will also help managers to check for patterns and so help predict the types of incidents that could occur.
Findings from all risk assessments should be communicated to all staff as appropriate, and arrangements put in place to monitor and review such assessments.
Mechanisms should be in place to share learning with staff and across the service.
4.1 Staff support
Depending on the seriousness of the incident, staff who have been the victim of harassment and / or violence should receive robust support from managers and the organisation’s human resources department as appropriate.
This may include:
- debriefing by the line manager, as soon as possible following the incident;
- supervision with the line manager for a more in-depth examination of the incident and any learning points that arise or further discussion with other colleagues including senior managers;
- team discussion regarding the incident where appropriate to share learning and any change in practice required;
- referral for counselling for the member of staff, where required;
- support for the member of staff and the line manager, as required, in the case of any ongoing police investigation and subsequent prosecution or other internal organisational sanctions taken against the person perpetrating the harassment or violence.
Managers should also ensure that where the perpetrator is an adult who still uses the service, that steps are taken to discuss the situation with them, their behaviour, how they could have responded differently and referral to other agencies for support / interventions regarding behaviour management as appropriate.