8.3 Focus on workplace abuse
What was the extent and nature of abuse experienced by adults employed in public facing roles in Scotland?
This section considers the experiences of adults in Scotland who spend time dealing with the general public while at work. The 2016/17 SCJS estimates that around three-quarters (73%) of adults in employment spent some time dealing with the general public during the course of their work, either face-to-face or over the telephone.
Most adults did not experience abuse when dealing with the public while at work in 2016/17. Of those who did, verbal abuse (38%) was more common than physical abuse (8%)
As shown below in Figure 8.3, most adults did not experience verbal or physical abuse when dealing with the public while at work in 2016/17 (61%). However, when they did experience abuse, verbal abuse was more common than physical abuse. In 2016/17, of those who dealt with the public at work, it is estimated that 38% of adults had experienced verbal abuse compared to 8% of adults who had experienced physical abuse.
These results from the 2016/17 SCJS on workplace abuse are similar to the results of the 2008/09 SCJS (when these questions were last included), as demonstrated in Figure 8.3. Each of the apparent differences are not statistically significant.
Figure 8.3: Proportion of adults who have contact with the public at work who experienced abuse while dealing with the general public
Base: Adults who have contact with the public at work (2008/09: 1,530; 2016/17: 540). Variable: QDVERB; QDPHYS.
The low prevalence of physical abuse in the 2016/17 SCJS means that no further analysis of physical abuse at work is possible in this chapter. However, the ' Focus on violent crime' chapter includes information on violent crimes, including those experienced at work; in fact, in or near the place of work (28%) is the option most frequenctly selected by respondents when they are asked about the location of the incident.
Further analysis is possible in this chapter on the circumstances of those who experienced verbal abuse while at work while dealing with the public  .
- Just over a third of adults (34%) experiencing verbal abuse from the general public at work said they experienced at least one verbal abuse incident per week (this was unchanged from 2008/09).
- 36% of adults who had experienced verbal abuse said they did not report the latest incident to their employer. The most common reason for not reporting verbal abuse to their employer was "it's not worth the bother" (27%), and "incidents such as these are just part of the job" (58%).
- 71% of adults who experienced only verbal abuse said their last incident occurred during the week with 23% of incidents occurring at the weekend. The most common time of day to experience verbal abuse during the week was between noon and 6pm (41%).
- Of those who had experienced this type of abuse at work, when asked about what might have motivated the latest incident 7% said it was or may have been motivated by their ethnic origin / race and 5% said it was motivated by their gender. Most people said it was not motivated by any of the following reasons, their: ethnic origin, religion, sectarianism, gender disability, sexual orientation or age (76%).
Most adults were not worried about experiencing workplace abuse, however a small proportion worried a lot about this.
Eight-five per cent of all employed adults said they did not worry much or at all about verbal or physical abuse happening at work. Two per cent of adults worried a lot, and 12% worried a little about it. Similar results are found when looking at only those adults employed in public facing roles, where 82% said they did not worry much or at all about verbal or physical abuse happening at work, 3% worried a lot, and 15% worried a little about it.
More than half of employees in public facing roles had not received training or support to deal with abuse.
Just over half of adults (54%) who worked in roles dealing with the public said they had not had any formal training or assistance at work to help deal with a situation where people are behaving aggressively towards them. 40% of adults said they had had formal training at work, while 9% had received other assistance at work to help deal with these situations.