A woman experiencing work-related stress. LEHTIKUVA

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Approximately 2,200 contacts related to harassment and work-related stress were made to the Finnish occupational safety authorities in 2022. Out of these, around 1,500 contacts were related to harassment, while 900 were regarding work-related stress. Some contacts involved both issues.

The total number of contacts has remained relatively stable in recent years. However, there has been an increase in the proportion of contacts related to work-related stress.

In about 170 cases related to harassment, employees filed written requests for inspection, which enabled the inspector to assess whether enforcement measures could be taken. There were slightly fewer than 70 inspection requests concerning work-related stress. In several cases, both harassment and work-related stress were reported.

Further details can be found in the recent report (pdf) published by the occupational safety authorities. The report also includes case descriptions from inspections conducted in 2022.

In nearly half of the cases inspected, the employer had neglected their obligations.

A total of 59 inspections were carried out regarding harassment. These inspections focused on whether the employer had taken measures to address harassment that posed a health risk to employees, after being informed about such incidents.

In almost half of the inspections related to harassment, it was found that the employer had not complied with their obligations under the Occupational Safety Act. The most common finding was that the employer had failed to take any action to address reported cases of harassment. It was typical for employers either not to take any measures to eliminate harassment or for the measures taken to be insufficient. In many cases, the employer had not thoroughly investigated the incidents or had done so belatedly and inadequately. Some cases involved inappropriate behavior by the employer themselves.

In about half of the inspected cases, no deficiencies were identified in the employer's actions or workplace conditions. In these cases, the inspector typically determined, based on the employer's explanation, that the reported incidents did not meet the definition of harassment under the Occupational Safety Act.

The occupational safety authorities emphasize the importance of preventing harassment in the workplace. "Clear procedures for reporting inappropriate behavior and guidelines for good workplace behavior can prevent the occurrence of harassment situations. It is particularly important to provide training to supervisors on handling situations of inappropriate treatment," emphasizes Chief Inspector Päivi Laakso from the Occupational Safety Division of the Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency.

Employers have a duty to address workload-related issues

There were 30 inspections conducted specifically related to work-related stress. These inspections focused on whether the employer had fulfilled their obligation to identify and reduce workload factors that posed a risk to the health of employees, after being informed about such issues. In about half of the inspections, it was found that the employer had not complied with the legal obligations.

In several cases, the employer had conducted inadequate investigations into the causes of employee workload-related stress. In some cases, it was considered that the employer had not taken sufficient measures, even though health-endangering workload factors had been identified. It was typical for employers either not to take action at an early stage or for the measures taken not to address the identified harmful workload factors. In many cases, both harassment and work-related stress were reported.

"When a matter is brought to the attention of the authorities, it often indicates that it is unclear at the workplace how and to whom workload-related issues should be reported. Another typical situation is that the causes of workload-related stress have not been adequately investigated in collaboration with occupational health services. Establishing proper procedures is crucial in handling workload-related situations," states Chief Inspector Päivi Laakso.

The occupational safety authorities proactively conduct inspections related to the management of psychosocial workload at workplaces. These inspections aim to ensure that workplaces have measures in place to prevent the emergence of harmful workload situations.

The inspections also address the occurrence of harassment and inappropriate treatment. More information on the proactive oversight of psychosocial workload can be found in the Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Administration's annual report for 2022.

Anonymous Calls to the Helpline

The national helpline of the occupational safety authorities is available on weekdays from 9 am to 3 pm at the number 0295 016 620. Calls to the helpline can be made anonymously. The individual's case will only be monitored with their explicit consent. Anonymous tips regarding harassment or excessive workload at the workplace can also be reported to the occupational safety authorities.

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