Debate: Harassment

That this meeting of RCN Congress asks Council to take action to ensure that all Health Care Providers demonstrate a commitment to zero tolerance of third party harassment.

This resolution passed 

Harassment can be described as unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. Third-party harassment occurs when an employee of an organisation experiences harassment by a customer, client or contractor of another organisation.

Nurses and health care support workers who experience third-party harassment appear to have limited redress through the courts. In England, The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Equality Act 2010 provide formal (but limited) legal routes of redress.

Attempts to resolve third-party harassment outside of legal process are often vigorously defended by employers and may force ‘victims’ into the judicial arena. This can be emotionally exhausting and have a negative impact on employer/employee relationships. Whilst acts of harassment are often witnessed by colleagues, support is rarely given to the person subjected to it and the perpetrator is rarely challenged. The 2016 NHS Staff Survey suggests that less than half of staff who experienced bullying or harassment at work actually reported their most recent experience of bullying or harassment.

The majority of cases encountered in the West Midlands, from where this resolution has been submitted, relate to race, disability and sexual orientation.

Anxiety, isolation, reduced engagement, loss of selfesteem and concentration are some of the more common impacts of this behaviour.

A zero tolerance policy towards third party harassment and providing mandatory training to staff would demonstrate employer commitment to eradicate it; increase the confidence of staff subjected to it; provide a clear framework for staff to address it and provide support to colleagues who are subjected to it.

Research published by NHS England (2018) identifies tackling harassment as a contributory factor in improving patient satisfaction. All Health Boards and Trusts in Wales have policies and procedures designed to prevent abuse, assault or harassment of staff by the public. In Northern Ireland, the five HSC trusts enforce zero tolerance policies encompassing harassment and verbal abuse, as well as physical violence. In 2017, the Health and Social Care Board launched a campaign extending zero tolerance principles to primary care settings, including GP practices. The RCN has raised concerns at a regional level about the absence of an associated withdrawal of care policy. 


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Main Auditorium
Belfast Waterfront
2 Lanyon Place

14 May 2018 14:15 - 14:45

Main Auditorium, Belfast Waterfront, 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast, BT1 3WH

Resolution, submitted by the RCN South Birmingham Branch

Page last updated - 05/09/2018