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ILO Convention 190, of June 21, 2019, on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work (the “Convention”), along with Recommendation 206 supplementing it, is the first international treaty to comprehensively address violence and harassment at work. The Convention states that everyone is entitled to a work environment free from violence and harassment. Under the Convention, the term “violence and harassment” means “a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices, or threats, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.”

The Convention came into force on June 25. The Spanish government announced that it will ratify it, so the Convention will be binding in Spain.

What are the implications of ratifying the Convention for the Spanish legal system?

Although no proposed modifications have been disclosed yet, we can anticipate that the Convention will be an essential interpretative guideline for courts when ruling on work harassment cases.

See below the conclusions from the analysis of the Convention:

  • The Convention emphasizes preventing psychosocial risks like violence and harassment at work, so we expect that concepts such as mobbing and gender-based violence and harassment will be redefined to include preventing them as a health and safety requirement.

    Companies must implement effective psychosocial risk assessment procedures and methods to prevent behaviors that can qualify as violence and harassment at work, since the employers’ duty of protection includes protection against harassment. Companies can be fined for noncompliance, including surcharges on social security payments.
  • Note the Convention’s broad scope of application, including employees, trainees, interns, apprentices, dismissed workers, volunteers, jobseekers, job applicants, and individuals exercising the authority, duties and responsibilities of an employer. The Convention also applies to third parties not involved in the employment relationship causing situations of violence or harassment at work.
  • The Convention identifies jobs that are more exposed to violence caused by third parties, expecting that these jobs will require closer monitoring from a prevention perspective. It becomes more important that harassment occur “as a result of work” and the importance of “the workplace” decreases. To this end, the Convention covers (i) public and private spaces when they become workplaces; (ii) places where workers are paid; (iii) places where workers rest, eat, or use sanitary, washing and changing facilities; (iv) trips to and from work; and (v) work-related travel, training, events and social activities. This raises particularly complex issues like the protection of privacy in employment relationships.
  • Preventing cyber harassment becomes increasingly important. Many violent or harassing behaviors occur through social media, online and instant messages sent to mobile devices. Companies will have to adjust their compliance and data protection policies and prevention protocols to prevent this kind of harassment. The ILO suggests possible ways of tackling cyber harassment, and the Spanish Data Protection Agency provides recommendations regarding the inclusion of cyber harassment in prevention protocols.

In addition to the above, ratifying the Convention offers the chance to rearrange the fragmented, scattered regulation on gender-based harassment at work.

Spain’s upcoming ratification of the Convention will entail significant legal modifications regarding the prevention of violence and harassment at work. It also offers the opportunity of reconciling collective bargaining, gender equality plans and corporate policies (anti-harassment protocols) with the Convention principles and content and with any legal amendments resulting from ratification.

This post is also available in: Español

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patricia.madronagarcia@cuatrecasas.com

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pedro.llorente@cuatrecasas.com