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By Marcus Hoy
March 23—Employers' obligation to evaluate the risk of work-related violence will be extended to include violence that occurs outside the workplace, the Working Environment Authority announced in a March 16 statement. The new obligation is contained in amendments to the health and safety provisions of the Working Environment Act (1072/2010) effective Feb. 1. Additional clarification is expected to be contained in an executive order later this year.
Under the new rules, employers will be required to consider the following questions in conducting a risk assessment:
• Does a situation exist where, for example, a member of the public may have become angry as a result of a meeting with an employee?
• Have previous cases of work-related violence or threats against employees occurred?
• Have individuals employees may come in contact with during their workdays exhibited threatening behavior?
• Do the duties performed by employees or the decisions they are empowered to make have a significant impact on clients or customers?
The WEA amendments require employers to provide guidelines and instructions to their staffs on how best to handle incidents of work-related violence outside working hours.
According to Anne-Marie Roge Krag, head consultant at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, it is unlikely the new obligations will extend beyond professions where frontline employees deal with customers face-to-face.
“In our view, this employer obligation is already in place,” Roge Krag said in a March 19 statement, “because the employer already has a duty to chart all risks related to the work environment. Employers are currently obliged to take measures to prevent violence, threats and other offensive behavior in the workplace. In general, therefore, we do not see a need for new legislation.”
“Under the new obligation, the employer must assess whether circumstances exist in which employees risk being subject to violence outside working hours,” Roge Krag continued. “This will take place in conjunction with an ongoing general assessment of the working environment and in daily planning and organization. The companies that will be affected will only be those where employees perform tasks that may involve a risk of being exposed to violence.”
“It has been important for the Chamber of Commerce to clarify the scope of this new obligation, to identify cases where employers will be expected to take preventive action and identify what action the employer is expected to take,” Roge Krag concluded. “The obligation may entail providing additional training to employees working in areas of potential conflict.”
Attorney Mia Boesen of Copenhagen-based Bird & Bird agreed that the amendment would only affect certain workplaces.
“Not all companies will be subject to the obligation,” Boesen said. “If there is no risk that workers could be exposed to work-related violence outside working hours, the employer will not have to take action.”
“The Working Environment Act already imposes duties on employers with regards to violence during working hours,” Boesen continued. “These new rules will extend this duty so it applies outside working hours. In most cases, the employer will probably not experience any significant changes, as they should already be focused on their obligations. However, employers will be required to assess whether employees' duties are organized to a sufficient degree to minimize the risk of work-related violence outside working hours.”
“Employers could risk warnings and ultimately sanctions if they are not sufficiently aware of the risks,” Boesen added.
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The WEA statement is available at http://arbejdstilsynet.dk/da/nyheder/nyheder/nyheder-2015/nyheder/nye-regler-om-arbejdsrelateret-vold-uden-for-arbejdstid.aspx, the amendments to the Working Environment Act at http://www.ft.dk/RIpdf/samling/20141/lovforslag/L83/20141_L83_som_fremsat.pdf, both in Danish.
For more information on Danish HR law and regulation, see the Denmark primer.
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