In addition to private persons, companies should be able to seek a restraining order against persons who continuously cause disturbances, the Finnish Commerce Federation, the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa, Service Union United PAM, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK and the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK propose together.
A company restraining order could be equivalent to a regular restraining order sought by a private person, but in this instance the one seeking the order would be a company. The restraining order would be placed by a local court or an official who is a temporary member of the police officers. The order would be monitored and breaking the order would be punishable in the same manner it is now.
Additionally, the federations propose a review on whether the threats could be reduced in Finland by implementing, in accordance with the Swedish model, in addition to the act of unlawful threats, a more lenient form of crime whose characteristics would better fit the threats occurring in customer service situations.
“The safety of everyday life requires up-to-date legislation and preventive official acts from both the police and the prosecutor. We must give a clear message that in the Finnish society, inappropriate behaviour towards other people or property is not acceptable. Troublemaking and threats must not become commonplace – they are nobody’s basic rights,” the federations communicate.
Troublemaking and threats lamentably common in Finland
The company victim research by the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy (Krimo) of the University of Helsinki, published in spring 2019, shows that in the retail trade and the travel and restaurant industry troublemaking and threats are more common in Finland than in the comparison countries.
According to the research, in Finland the risk of personnel becoming a victim of violence of threatening is double that of England’s retail trade and five times that of the similar situation in the Netherlands. Also in the hospitality industry Finnish companies and their personnel are targeted with considerably more violence and the threat of it from customers than in the comparison countries. In Finland, threats are often missed by official statistics: repeated troublemaking or stalking was reported to the police in only less than a quarter of all cases.
The situation can escalate for many reasons. Sometimes the customer deems that the service the company provides is not sufficient or pleasant. Companies are sometimes forced to make decisions related to the customer that do not feel right to the customer. Also the customer’s excessive, personal and continuous improper behaviour, which heeds no warning or ban, towards an employee of the company causes situations that are difficult and awkward.
Companies do not have many tools when continuous troublemaking, vandalism or the tormenting or threatening of a company employee happen: due to resource reasons, the police might not arrive on time to take care of the situation, the act does not meet the criteria of an unlawful threat or banning a singular person from the company premises or their neighbuoring areas is not legally uncomplicated.
The consequence is not only costs but also human suffering
Disorderly behaviour and property damage cause not only direct costs but also human suffering. At worst, the situation can cause anxiety, exhaustion and even incapacity for work for the employee.
Seeking a restraining order is a heavy process for the victim and therefore a singular employee usually has a high threshold for taking a disturbance or threats occurring in work to the authorities. The federations’ opinion is that if the threats affect multiple employees, the restraining order could also be more effective when it relates to a place and not just a singular employee.
Exact estimates on the financial losses the disturbances cause companies are not available. However, it is easy to see that the price tag is considerable for the whole Finnish society, the federations note. Naturally, especially small companies, who have limited resources for intervening in the disturbing situations, suffer from the current situation.
Ilkka Nieminen, expert, safety, Finnish Commerce Federation, +358 50 042 2216, ilkka.nieminen(at)pty.fi
Mika Susi, senior expert, legislation and administration, EK, +358 50 349 5008, mika.susi(at)ek.fi
Veli-Matti Aittoniemi, deputy managing director, MaRa, +358 40 736 7705, veli-matti.aittoniemi(at)mara.fi
Erika Kähärä, work environment expert, PAM, +358 40 764 5295, erika.kahara(at)pam.fi
Paula Ilveskivi, lawyer, SAK, +358 50 565 1664, paula.ilveskivi(at)sak.fi
More information on the research by the Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy of Helsinki University.