Bullying and sexual harassment in the legal sector

The Director of ILO-Brussels presented the newly adopted ILO Standards on the elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work at an event hosted by the International Bar Association in Brussels.

News | 01 July 2019
The ILO co-hosted an event with the European Commission and the International Bar Association (IBA) on “Bullying and sexual harassment in the legal sector”. The IBA presented the results of its survey on this topic, conducted among nearly 7000 professionals across 135 countries.

The report finds that bullying and sexual harassment are common in the legal profession. It also identifies the chronic under reporting of incidents, with 57% of bullying cases and 75% of sexual harassment cases not reported, for reasons including the profile of the perpetrator and the victim’s fear of repercussions.

Lieve Verboven, Director of ILO-Brussels, presented the newly adopted ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 on the elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, the first-ever standards on this matter, which recognize a new right. They also push for a cultural shift by introducing a new paradigm of respect and dignity in the world of work.

The notion of the world of work encompasses not only workplaces in the traditional sense, but also places where a worker is paid, takes a rest or meal break, or uses sanitary, during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities, work-related communications and when commuting to and from work.

The Convention protects all workers irrespective of their contractual status, including job seekers or applicants, trainees and interns. It also recognizes that violence and harassment may involve third parties, such as clients and customers.

Ms Verboven described how prevention and protection, enforcement and remedies and guidance and training could be the main drivers to address violence and harassment in the world of work, including in the legal profession. To conclude, she expressed hope and confidence for a high level of engagement by member States in light of the ratification process.