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Covid restrictions reduce violence at work

Long-term trends suggest that violence in the workplace has increased, but Covid has seen a drop in reporting.

Sairaanhoitaja käytävällä, Uusi lastensairaala, Helsinki, 8.7.2019.
Stock photo. Care workers are one of the most at risk of suffering violence at work. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Violence experienced at work dipped last year in Finland, probably thanks to the Covid restrictions and advice to work from home if possible.

The Finnish Workers' Compensation Center says that it normally pays out around 650 times a year for claims of workplace violence.

In 2020 they dealt with 533 cases that led to a payout.

Most claims come from sectors where there are a lot of contacts with customers, and also dispute situations, according to the center's expert Lasse Kammonen.

"The drop is significant in percentage terms, around 20 percent," said Kammonen. "Only the most serious cases of violence lead to compensation, so these statistics only include a small portion of all workplace violence incidents."

The longer-term trend shows an increase in violent workplace situations, according to kammonen. Kammonen says he believes an increase in usage of intoxicating substances, combined with changes in the ways people interact, lay behind the increase.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has followed work in the municipal sector since the 1990s as part of its biannual Kunta10 studies.

The studies cover some 90,000 permanent and temporary employees across ten municipalities.

Last year some 65,000 workers answered the survey, a response rate of some 72 percent.

It found that some 45 percent of women and 33 percent of men responding to the survey had experienced violence of some kind, or the threat of violence. The numbers for 2018 were slightly higher.

"Young workers report the most violent incidents," said the institute's researcher Jenni Ervasti.

Teaching, care and customer service workers experienced the most violence in the municipal sector, according to the survey.

Kammonen would add police and security guards to that list, although in general he says violence seems more common in sectors dominated by women.

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