Workplace harassment on the rise in customer-facing sectors

Ibec has launched a toolkit to help businesses handle workplace abuse



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25 June 2024

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According to business group Ibec, incidents of aggression and harassment in the workplace have increased, especially in customer-facing sectors like retail, libraries, and hospitality.

Circle K research showed that 75% of their retail employees have faced verbal, racial, gender-based, or physical abuse from customers, according to RTE. 

Targeted locations 

“Libraries, pharmacies, and bookshops have become frequent targets of ‘protestors’ who engage in verbal attacks and intimidation of staff,” said Kara McGann, head of Skills and Social Policy, Ibec.

McGann noted that recent trends have raised significant concerns for employers about protecting their staff at work.

“These personalised protests mirror global movements and represent a new challenge in Ireland.”

The increase in this behaviour is ‘partly due to the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict, rising energy costs, inflation, and supply chain disruptions’.

“These factors have contributed to a sense of disenfranchisement and marginalisation among individuals, leading to increased resentment, intolerance, and polarising views. Such sentiments, often fuelled by misinformation, undermine social cohesion and economic collaboration,” said McGann.

Ibec toolkit 

Ibec has launched a toolkit to help businesses handle workplace abuse. 

It offers practical resources for identifying and implementing risk controls, addresses employer responsibilities under equality and health and safety laws, and includes sample documents and checklists to prevent and manage incidents.

“Ireland has made significant strides in addressing discrimination and promoting equality in recent years,” said Nichola Harkin, head of Employment Law Services, Ibec. 

There has been a concerning rise in harassment, abuse, and violence within society, often directed at individuals based on their nationality, sexual orientation, or place of employment.

Harkin noted the importance of employers feeling empowered to mitigate risks and support employees in promptly responding to and reporting incidents.

Read more: Imelda Hurley announced as new Ibec President for 2022-2023



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