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EU Advances on Treaty to End Violence and Harassment at Work

Decision Encourages Ratification, EU States Should Ratify Treaty Promptly

Protestors marching to demand the end of femicide and violence against women in Paris, France, November 23, 2019.  © 2019 Christian Hartmann/Reuters

In a long overdue step, on September 18, the Council of the European Union finally adopted a draft decision calling on EU member states to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Violence and Harassment Convention (ILO C190). States should not further delay doing so.

Adopted in 2019, the groundbreaking treaty lays out international legal standards for preventing and responding to violence and harassment in the world of work. It requires governments to ensure comprehensive national laws against harassment and violence at work – including prevention measures, complaints mechanisms, monitoring, enforcement, and support for survivors – and laws obligating employers to maintain workplace policies against violence and harassment. The treaty covers workers, trainees, former employees, job seekers, and job applicants, and applies to both informal and formal sectors.

The convention is a powerful tool in the fight to eliminate gender-based violence at work, as well as strengthening efforts to mitigate the effects of domestic violence in the world of work.

On January 22, 2020, the European Commission had introduced a proposal for a Council Decision that would authorize member states to ratify ILO C190 in so far as it covers areas that fall under EU competence. Now that the EU Council has adopted such a draft decision, the European Parliament needs to give its consent for it to be formally adopted.

While seven EU states have already ratified C190 (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Italy), others have delayed ratification citing the pending decision as an excuse.

The EU Parliament should act quickly to formally adopt the Council Decision. EU states moreover should move to ratify the treaty and reform their laws and policies in line with it. Employers should also work with unions and worker organizations to put in place workplace policies and collective bargaining agreements in line with the treaty. We can’t wait any longer to realize the right to safety and dignity in the world of work for all.

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