One out 4 workers faces harassment in France – ILO survey

Almost one in four people in France say they have been the target of workplace harassment because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or health status.

This is one of the conclusions set out in the annual Barometer on workplace discrimination published on Thursday by the Defender of Rights Office of the Government of France and the ILO Country Office for France.

The survey, conducted in 2016 by the Défenseur des droits, found that men and women are almost equally affected by degrading attitudes at work: 33 per cent of the men and 32 per cent of the women surveyed said they felt they had been unjustly demeaned over the past five years.

The survey is based on a representative sample of the French population.

The report shows that certain social groups are particularly vulnerable to stigmatising words and behaviour.

For example, 54 per cent of women categorized as non-white and aged between 18 and 44, and 43 per cent of disabled women, said they had been targeted by such language and behaviour.

While men perceived as being white and aged between 35 and 44 were rarely affected (11 per cent), 40 per cent of homosexual and bisexual men, and 40 per cent of young men perceived as being black or Arab, experienced a similar amount of degrading language and behaviour as women.

The study found that such cases of discriminatory behaviour were found in all sectors – 27 per cent in the public sector, 25 per cent in the private sector and 22 per cent among the self-employed.

“We are not talking about isolated cases here”, said Cyril Cosme, Director of the ILO Country Office for France, who presented the study’s main findings with Jacques Toubon of Défenseur des droits.

“Most of the time, the incidents take place in an atmosphere of workplace hostility.

They include repeated discrimination and demeaning behaviour, resulting in discriminatory harassment.” According to the study, such incidents are often downplayed at work, with perpetrators often claiming they were “just kidding”.

The Barometer’s conclusions also establish links between harassment and discrimination, enabling the victims to seek redress through the courts or the Défenseur des droitsoffice.

Consequently, the report’s authors say, offensive language and behaviour relating to gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or health status need to be addressed through a comprehensive prevention strategy.

According to Cyril Cosme, Director of ILO Country office for France,“the cases reported in our Barometer are about France but such behaviour is not limited to one country alone.

The ILO has started a process aimed at establishing new global standards, in the form of a binding convention and a recommendation, in order to help governments fight workplace violence and harassment.

“The French Government and the French social partners [workers’ and employers’ organizations] are closely engaged in the ILO’s standard-setting process to end violence and harassment.

So, we hope that these standards will be successfully adopted at the next International Labour Conference.

It is a particularly appropriate moment to extend workers’ protections because 2019 also marks the Centenary of the ILO.


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