How to prevent and combat gender-based violence in the education sector?

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On 24 September 2021, education trade unions came together in an online meeting with cross-sectoral social partners to discuss how to prevent and combat gender-based violence and harassment at work.

The event was organised in the framework of the multi-sectoral social dialogue project “The role of social partners in preventing third-party violence and harassment at work” led by the European Public Service Union (EPSU) in partnership with ETUCE, CEMR, HOSPEEM, CESI, EUPAE, ETF, UITP, and ETNO. The project focusses on the role of social partners in preventing third-party violence and harassment at work and sets the ground for a possible revision on the Multi-sectoral Guidelines to tackle third-party violence and harassment at work, signed by ETUCE.

As part of thematic webinars carried out within the project, this event was devoted to analysing the causes and consequences of gender-based violence at work and the measures to prevent it. During the meeting, representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the European Commission and global experts on gender equality shared their expertise on the prevention of gender-based violence and the linkage between domestic violence and working environments.

 “The prevention of violence in education is a priority for ETUCE and combatting in particular gender-based violence continues being a key target. After all, a safe and healthy working environment for teachers, academics and other education personnel, means a healthy and safe learning environment for students.” said Susan Flocken, European Director of ETUCE.

The preliminary findings of the project reveal that the occurrence of third-party violence[1] has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by 40% of surveyed social partners. Participants in the study also report that third-party violence has an impact on the quality of their work.

Data indicates that up to 40% of women experience domestic violence and abuse during their careers. Moreover, rising rates of femicide at work, increased stalking and cyber-harassment reveal a need to drastically improve the occupational health and safety of women workers. Additionally, the situation significantly worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a staggering 70% increase in counselling hotlines displays. Education trade unions pointed out that these trends are particularly concerning for the education sector where women make up 73% of the total workforce.

Therefore, participants called for a safer and healthier working environment, including decent working conditions and salaries as well as a strong social environment. This requires spotting training for school leaders, paid domestic violence leave, the possibility of temporary reductions in hours and tasks, financial support and protection from dismissal. It is also crucial to combat the culture of non-reporting by establishing trustful, anonymous complaint systems that lead to meaningful counselling, as well as effective investigation and consequences.

Upcoming activities for trade union representatives in the framework of the project include webinars on health risk assessment and digitalisation in winter 2021.


[1] Third-party violence occurs in case of verbal aggressions, psychological harassments, physical assaults, and sexual harassment during work, from people that are neither colleagues nor superiors.