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What you need to know about C190 - 16 Q&As

1. What do you know about the last Convention adopted by the International Labour Organization?

In June 2019, ILO adopted Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. The Convention addresses a significant problem and will help workers prevent and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work.

2. What it is an ILO Convention?

It’s a legal instrument agreed by governments, employers and workers. When ratified (adopted as part of the national legislation) by a country it is legally binding (obligatory). A convention defines and sets international standards on freedom of association, right to work, right to collective bargaining, etc.

3. Is violence and harassment much more than physical abuse?

It can take the form of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, bullying, mobbing, threats and stalking, single as well as repeated acts. Lack of resources, denied access to services and other deprivations of liberty also constitute forms of violence.

4. Are women and men equally affected by violence and harassment?

Women are disproportionally affected. The World Health Organization estimates that 35 per cent of women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. As many as 38 per cent of all femicides are committed by partners.

5. What is gender-based violence?

C190 defines harassment as “violence and harassment directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately, and includes sexual harassment”. The Convention’s focus on gender-based violence and its impact in the world of work makes it a very important international instrument.

6. Why does an ILO convention address domestic violence?

Domestic violence is not a private issue. It can affect health and safety and employment productivity; workers subjected to domestic violence can be threatened at work and colleagues may witnesses the violence. Employers have a duty of care, and could provide paid leave, help with contacts to support organizations, grant flexible hours, etc. A victim of domestic violence should not have to choose between her safety and her job.

7. Is sexual harassment during a work-related dinner covered by C190?

Yes! C190 is applicable in the world of work, including:

  • social activities, trips and travels related to work
  • the workplace itself and work-related spaces, including employer provided accommodation
  • places where workers are paid, trained, rest or commute
  • online spaces such as emails, text or other forms of online communication

8. Does the Convention protect agency workers?

Yes! Everyone in the world of work is covered. No one is left behind! C190 applies to:

  • All workers as defined by national laws and practice, irrespective of their work contract situation
  • Job seekers and applicants
  • Volunteers, workers in training , interns and apprentices
  • People whose job have been terminated

9. Are really all workers covered by C190?

Yes! All workers in public and private sectors, rural and urban areas, formal and informal economy are covered.

10. Is an undeclared domestic worker protected by C190?

Yes! Domestic workers and care givers with live-in arrangements in private homes are all protected by the Convention. In addition, domestic workers are covered by ILO C189. Fear and silence need no longer be part of the working conditions!

11. Is violence and harassment only perpetrated by a supervisor or employer toward an employee?

NO! Violence and harassment can come from managers, supervisors, colleagues, peers, as well as third parties such as clients, customers, friends or relatives of employers in case of private employers.

12. Only states can address violence, can’t they?

Governments should adopt laws and regulations against violence and harassment. In consultation with trade unions, employers should take appropriate measures to prevent and address violence and harassment at work, in order to provide a safe environment. Everyone has a role to play in this fight. Trade unions are catalysts for the elimination of violence and harassment in the society!

13. Why is collective bargaining an important tool for fighting violence and harassment?

It can play a key role in preventing and eliminating violence and harassment at work, including mitigating impacts of domestic violence. Collective bargaining can ensure that all workers, in all situations are protected, and that measures to address violence and harassment take into account gender inequality and discrimination.

14. Is violence and harassment part of health and safety at work?

YES! The Convention 190 states clearly that violence and harassment in the world of work should be addressed in relevant national policies on occupational health and safety. Employers need to include violence and harassment when managing occupational health and safety in the workplace.

15. Do trade unions have to wait for ratification of C190 to act?

NO! Let’s use the Convention now! Unions can:

  • Promote non-discrimination and equality through campaigns and collective bargaining
  • Educate members about violence and harassment in the world of work
  • Include language in collective bargaining agreements based on C190 and its recommendation R206
  • Use C190 and R206 to improve or change policies and legislations, helping to secure ratification
  • Work with employers to make sure health and safety policies include violence and harassment, and more specifically gender-based violence
  • Support global union federations in negotiations of global framework agreements to include language based on C190 and R206

16. Let’s campaign for ratification of C190!

As trade unions we should campaign for the ratification of C190 in our countries and build alliances with other trade unions, national centres, NGOs, and women’s rights groups.