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23 May, 2024
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Workplace harassment hits 1 in 3, EU report finds

Commissioner sounds alarm on workplace mental health crisis

Newsroom / CNA

A third of sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said at an event organised by Cyprus Workers Confederation (SEK) on "Tackling sexual harassment and workplace bullying in the workplace", on Thursday evening.

Citing figures, the European Commissioner said that in 2023 half of EU citizens have experienced emotional or psychosocial challenges in the last 12 months, while more than one quarter of workers experience psychological pressure and stress caused or exacerbated by their work.

In addition, she noted that women face gender bias in their work relationships, adding that violence against women and any form of sexual harassment causes feelings of anxiety and other mental disorders, leading to both increased absenteeism from work, and reduced performance. She added that that more than 77% of harassment in the workplace involves women.

Kyriakides also referred to the Commission's European Gender Equality Strategy, and noted that regulations on violence against women are also being prepared and are expected to be adopted in May. These include that employers must ensure that counselling services are available to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Commissioner also referred to the creation of the European Health Union and the importance given to the mental health pillar, which she said is a political priority for the EU. "It is particularly important when we discuss sexual harassment. For us it is particularly important to break the silence," she noted.

Minister of Labour and Social Insurance Yiannis Panayiotou said that tackling sexual harassment and intimidation in the workplace is a fundamental issue for the safety and well-being of the workforce.

He also noted that an implementing law for the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on harassment in the workplace is currently under consultation.

Referring to the mechanisms of the Ministry of Labour on the issue, he said that gender equality inspectors undertake extrajudicial proceedings with a social role, and the Committee for Gender Equality in Employment and Vocational Training.

SEK's Deputy Secretary General Michael Michael said that the threat of sexual harassment and workplace bullying is recognised as an "occupational disease", noting that the cooperation of social partners is necessary to combat the phenomenon.

He added that a survey conducted on behalf of SEK in 2022 highlighted the magnitude of the problem, as it showed that 7 out of 10 workers believe that employees in Cyprus are victims of workplace bullying, while one in two said they are victims themselves. "The number of complaints does not reflect the problem," he noted, while underlining that the existing institutional framework is inadequate and does not contribute to taking complaints to justice.

In his address on behalf of the President of the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB) Senior Officer George Hadjikallis noted that sexual harassment and workplace bullying undermine integrity and productivity, create a hostile work environment and ultimately hinder the growth of business and the economy in general. "Therefore, our active participation and commitment to addressing and eliminating them is critical," he said.

He also highlighted the development of a Code to Address Harassment and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, agreed upon by OEB with SEK and PEO in 2019, which was incorporated into collective agreements.

On behalf of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Labour Relations Director Emilios Michael said that sexual harassment in the workplace comes with a high price in terms of reduced productivity of the workers and the business itself.

"The adoption of prevention measures by businesses is necessary because it contributes to the smooth and productive operation of any business," he said, noting that all stakeholders should focus their efforts on prevention.

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