Preventing workplace psychosocial hazards: some concepts

Auteur: Catherine Mairy
Datum:

Since 1 September 2014, extensive changes have been brought in to the rules on violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The aim is to put in place a general framework for preventing workplace psychosocial hazards including stress, violence, bullying and sexual harassment at work. The focus of the rules is therefore no longer just on preventing violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.

These new rules are applicable both to the private and the public sector.

The new procedures are accessible to the worker who considers that he has sustained psychological harm, which may or may not be accompanied by physical harm, arising out of workplace psychosocial hazards including violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.

This article briefly reviews the different concepts.

The procedures which are accessible to the worker and the statute of the psychosocial hazards prevention adviser and the confidential counsellor will be covered in subsequent Infoflashes.

Workplace psychosocial hazards

"Workplace psychosocial hazards" is understood to mean the probability of psychological harm which may also be accompanied by physical harm being sustained by one or more workers as a result of exposure to elements that make up the work organization, job content, working conditions, the conditions of working life and interpersonal relationships in the workplace on which the employer has an impact and which objectively pose a danger.

Psychological harm may among others manifest itself in anxiety, depression, burn-out, suicidal thoughts, post traumatic stress.

Physical harm may among others manifest itself in sleeping disorders, elevated blood pressure, palpitations and gastrointestinal problems.

"Violence in the workplace" is understood to mean any incident in which a worker is harassed psychologically or physically, threatened or assaulted in the performance of the job.

It may among others regard acts which are performed at one point in time,  such as threats, physical aggression (such as direct blows) or verbal aggression (such as taunts, insults). 

"Bullying in the workplace" is understood to mean similar or different forms of abusive conduct, inside or outside the company, which take place over a period of time and that have the purpose of or result in:

  • affecting the personality, the dignity or the physical or mental integrity of a worker in the performance of the job;
  • threatening his/her job;
  • creating a threatening, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment

among others in the form of words, threats, acts, gestures or unilateral writings.

This conduct may among others relate to the age, marital status, birth, power, religion or beliefs, political opinions, trade union beliefs, language, current or future health status, disability, physical or genetic characteristic, social origin, nationality, so-called race, colour, ethnic origin, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

This may be, among others, isolating the worker, preventing the worker to express him/herself, criticizing the religion of the worker.

"Sexual harassment in the workplace" is understood to mean any form of verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviour with a sexual connotation, that has the purpose of or results in:

  • offending a person’s dignity;
  • or creating a threatening, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

This may include ogling or lascivious glances, ambiguous comments or insinuations, display of pornographic material, touching.

To be continued..., watch this space!

Sources: Act of 28 February 2014 supplementing the Act of 4 August 1996 on the well-being of workers in the performance of their work as regards the prevention of psychosocial hazards at work, including violence, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace, Moniteur belge of 28 April 2014; Royal Decree of 10 April 2014 on the prevention of workplace psychosocial hazards, Moniteur belge of 28 April 2014; in French on the website of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, heading "Thèmes/Bien-être au travail/Charge psychosociale" (www.emploi.belgique).  

Auteur: Catherine Mairy

26/09/2014