Social partners sign agreement against harassment in the banking sector

The social partners in the banking sector in Luxembourg have signed an agreement on harassment, following the conclusion of a national agreement on 25 June 2009. The agreement requires employers to adopt the principle that moral harassment will not be tolerated, as well as awareness-raising measures and training on prevention and protection. Although many banks have internal procedures in place already, this agreement is the first of its kind in the sector.

Background

An agreement between Luxembourg's social partners in the banking sector reached on 9 July 2013 (published September 2013) sets out the conditions of the national agreement on harassment that are specifically aimed at this sector.

Unanimous agreement was reached between the Luxembourg Bankers’ Association (ABBL) and the three representative unions: the Luxembourg Association of Bank and Insurance Employees (ALEBA), the Independent Trade Union Confederation of Luxembourg (OGB-L) and the Luxembourg Confederation of Christian Unions (LCGB). The agreement covers around 26,500 employees in the banking sector.

Declaration of principle

The national agreement of 25 June 2009 (LU0908019I), which transposed the European framework agreement (EU0410206F) of 26 April 2007 in Luxembourg law, was extended to all employers on 15 December 2009. As there had been no specific harassment law in Luxembourg before 2009, the agreement filled a gap in the legal system. However, on the basis of Article 1134 of the Civil Code, which states that ‘agreements must be performed in good faith’, the law stipulates that the employer must take all necessary measures to prevent or stop any form of harassment within the company. In addition, the collective agreement for employees in the banking sector already included a declaration of principle on sexual and moral harassment (Article 33). The sectoral agreement of July 2013, therefore, provides additional details on these two issues.

Preventing harassment

The employers' duty of prevention requires them to adopt a declaration of principle to the effect that moral harassment will not be tolerated in the enterprise. They must also introduce measures to raise awareness on the part of employees, executive and non-executive staff, ‘of the definition of moral harassment, the ways in which it is to be dealt with in the company and the penalties which may be imposed on the perpetrator of acts of moral harassment’. Employers are also invited to establish training on prevention and protection, and to appoint a ‘discussion partner’ with authority to deal with the issue. Finally, employers must also define the ‘means and procedures made available to the victim’.

Internal procedures

The second part of the agreement provides a generic set of internal procedures to deal with cases of workplace harassment. These procedures provide guidance on the following issues:

  • how to deal with a complaint of harassment in a discreet and confidential manner;
  • designation of a so-called ‘discussion partner’ (in general, this will be the human resources manager) with the authority to receive and handle the complaint;
  • time limits for dealing with complaints;
  • the process for dealing with complaints of harassment;
  • the support to be provided to the victim of harassment;
  • the types of external assistance available to the victim;
  • the penalties the employer may impose in the event of harassment or of false accusations being made.

Assistance for employees

The sectoral agreement provides details about assistance for employees. Employees who have been subjected to harassment may consult, for example, a staff representative, the head of personnel, or another person of their choice.

The agreement promotes the employer-financed Association for Occupational Health in the Tertiary and Financial Sectors (ASTF) and encourages employers to refer to this body in the written explanation of their internal procedures, and employees to draw upon its expertise. Employees can make three appointments with an ASTF occupational physician at no charge, and their anonymity will be protected. They may also make an appointment with a psychologist to help them deal with the initial emotional impact of harassment.

The aim is to help the employee to recognise whether or not he or she is victim of harassment, to provide information about possible action that can be taken and, above all, to help the victim recover.

If the employee has informed his or her employer about the harassment, the ASTF may offer to follow up the case on behalf of the employee after the third free consultation and subsequent appointments are then paid for by the employer.

Social partners’ reactions

Marc Glesener, President of one of the signatory unions, ALEBA, has said this agreement is a response to the increase in work-related stress which is linked to restructuring within the financial sector.

‘The agreement is currently being implemented within companies through information and consultation bodies,’ he added.

The bank employers’ organisation, ABBL, is satisfied with the unanimity of the support for the agreement which demonstrates the strength of social dialogue within the sector. The ABBL has said that the agreement formalises the decade-old informal role of the ASTF. Although many banks have already established their own internal procedures, the agreement will ensure that all employers in the banking sector now do so. The integration of the agreement into the collective agreement will also raise awareness of the support available for employees and ensure that all are aware of it.

Commentary

This agreement is the first of its kind in the sector and a similar agreement is expected to follow in the insurance sector. The key issue now is the capacity of employers and information and consultation bodies to set out internal processes in every company covered by the agreement.

Frédéric Turlan, IR Share

 

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