The guidelines drawn up by the Finnish Commerce Federation and Service Union United PAM are a significant step forward in improving the work safety practices of the sector. The material published by the organisation includes for the first time examples on measures to take in case a customer acts inappropriately at the workplace.
According to surveys conducted by the unions between 2017 and 2020, harassment by customers is on the rise. Feedback provided by employees during the COVID-19 pandemic further confirm that inappropriate behaviour by customers has continued to increase. Therefore, it must be taken into consideration in the work safety practices of workplaces.
The customer is not always right – harassment by customers is not acceptable
The unions note that the saying “the customer is always right” is misleading. There are situations in customer service work where the customer does not act in a dignified way, but employees should not be exposed to harassment or sexual harassment even in these situations.
One example where the guidelines provide for the prevention of harassment and promotion of employee safety is for companies to adopt a Customer warning practice. The practice refers to informing the customer that they may cease to receive service due to inappropriate behaviour.
The guidelines also highlight other measures for recognising customer harassment and intervening in it. It is especially important that such cases of harassment are processed within the work community. Workplaces should also aim to practice such situations ahead of time. It must also be ensured that, after such an incident, employees receive appropriate treatment and professional help, if necessary.
Implementing operational models in the entire sector
In the 2020 collective agreement negotiations, the Finnish Commerce Federation and Service Union United PAM agreed on a new stipulation to be added to the work safety cooperation agreement of the collective labour agreement. The stipulation states that all employers must include in their statutory work safety programme procedures in case of harassment and sexual harassment as well for processing customer harassment.
The objective of the guidelines that were now drawn up by the unions is to support employers and help companies draw up their own guidelines of measures in case of harassment both within the work community and by customers. This means that, in future, safety practices will better consider preventing and intervening in all kinds of harassment and sexual harassment by customers.
The unions recommend that companies and workplaces in the sector use the guidelines to update, develop and implement different measures for comprehensively preventing and stopping all types of harassment.
For further information, please contact:
Pilvikki Pakola, labour market expert, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 50 465 9305, pilvikki.pakola(at)kauppa.fi
Erika Kähärä, work environment expert, PAM, tel. +358 40 764 5295, erika.kahara(at)pam.fi
The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce—the largest sector of economic life. Commerce employs around 290,000 persons in Finland. The Finnish Commerce Federation represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry politics and labour market lobbying. kauppa.fi
Service Union United PAM is a trade union for people working in private service sectors. PAM has almost 210,000 members and 80% of them are women. The majority of PAM’s members work in retail trade, property services, security services as well as tourism, restaurant and leisure services. www.pam.fi