A new United Nations “convention” against workplace violence and harassment is being hailed as a landmark measure that will help governments draft their own laws and regulations to prevent the problem.

Convention 190 (C190) was adopted last month by the International Labour Organization (ILO), an arm of the United Nations that sets internationally recognized labor standards. It will be binding for governments that ratify it.

GBV is a special concern

Among other things, C190 recognizes that “violence and harassment in the world of work affects a person’s psychological, physical and sexual health, dignity, and family and social environment” and that it may prevent people – particularly women – from remaining and advancing in the labor market. In addition to physical effects, the measure addresses the psychological, sexual and economic harm caused by workplace violence and harassment. It acknowledges the particular impact on women and girls and the need for a gender-responsive approach which will address the causes of GBV (gender-based violence that can include stereotypes, discrimination, unequal gender-based power).

United Auto Workers (UAW) President Gary Jones called C190 “the first international instrument that addresses these issues specifically.” Jones noted that only a few countries currently provide broad protection against violence and harassment in the workplace.

The IndustriALL Global Union, which represents 50 million workers in 140 countries, calls C190 “a huge victory” for workers and the trade union movement, which has been fighting for years to get an international labor instrument to address GBV in the workplace.

In addition to being used as a guide for the development of governmental laws and regulations, ILO conventions are used by employers throughout the world to establish best practices. Labor unions use them to advocate for better protections at work.

About the standard

The new standard is comprehensive, and extends protections to all workers, including those being trained, interns and apprentices, and volunteers. It covers violence and harassment occurring in the workplace; places where a worker is paid, takes a rest or meal break, or uses sanitary, washing or changing facilities; during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities; work-related communications (including information and communication technologies), in employer-provided accommodations; and when commuting to and from work.

Click here to view C190 in its entirety.