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Collective agreement - 22.01.2021 klo 12.00

Commercial sector takes a tough stance on harassment – Labour market organisations announce guidelines for eradicating harassment

Service Union United PAM and the Finnish Commerce Federation have jointly announced operational guidelines for preventing and acting on harassment and sexual harassment in companies in the sector. The guidelines include a recommended warning procedure in the event of disorderly behaviour by customers.

The joint guidelines prepared by PAM and the Finnish Commerce Federation are an important step forward in improving occupational safety procedures in the largest economic sector in Finland. For the first time, the material prepared by the organisations contains examples of how to act in the event of disorderly customer behaviour at workplaces. 

Surveys carried out by the organisations in 2017 and 2020 point to an increase in harassment, especially by customers. Feedback from employees during the coronavirus pandemic also indicate that bad behaviour by customers has increased still further. This is why it is important to factor it into workplace occupational safety actions. 

The customer isn’t always right – harassment by customers is not acceptable 

The organisations point out that the phrase ’the customer is always right’ is misleading. In customer service work you get situations where the customer doesn’t behave appropriately, but when dealing with these people employees should not be subjected to harassment or sexual harassment.

As an example of preventing harassment and promoting protection of employees, the guidelines propose a model Customer warning procedure for companies. This involves telling the customer that bad behaviour can lead to service being terminated. 

The guidelines also stress other actions for recognising and acting on harassment by customers. It’s very important to deal with these cases of harassment in the working community, and if possible workplaces should practise how to prepare for these situations in advance. Where possible, victims of customer harassment should also have access to care afterwards and, if necessary, professional help.  

Operating models to be introduced throughout the sector 

In the collective agreement negotiations in the sector in 2020, PAM and the Finnish Commerce Federation agreed on an addition to the occupational safety cooperation agreement in the collective agreement. The agreed text says that, in conformity with the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers’ occupational safety programmes should contain procedural guidelines for harassment and sexual harassment and for dealing with harassment by customers.

Now the purpose of the guidelines jointly produced by the organisations is to support employers and help companies to prepare their own procedural guidelines both within the working community and in the event of harassment or sexual harassment by customers. In future, therefore, occupational safety procedures in the sector will focus more on all types of harassment, sexual harassment and preventing and acting on harassment by customers. 

The organisations recommend that, using the guidelines, companies and workplaces in the sector  update, develop and introduce a range of measures to effectively and comprehensively prevent all types of harassment.

Check this out
Annex: Acting on harassment in the commercial sector. January 2021, Service Union United PAM and the Finnish Commerce Federation