Threats/Violence Takes a Toll on Employees and Employers, Study Shows

02 Feb, 2021 Nancy Grover


Sarasota, FL ( – Employers’ efforts to reduce threats and acts of violence in the workplace may add to the bottom line. A new study points to that factor in particular as a clear reason workers take ‘physician-certified’ sick days.

A study of employees in Norway looked at the negative impact of what it called adverse social behavior (ASB), including:

  1. Threats/acts of violence
  2. Bullying
  3. Sexual harassment

“Collectively, ASB accounted for 5% and 8% of the occurrences with low and high level of sick leave, respectively,” the study says. “The results of the present study indicate that organisations should raise efforts to prevent and handle ASB at the workplace.”

The findings were published in BMJs' Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Researchers reviewed data from a random group of the general working population who were interviewed in 2009, 2013 or 2016. More than 13,000 respondents were included. They were categorized as taking between 1 and 16 days of sick time — low level of sick leave (LLSL); or more than 16 days — high level of sick leave (HLSL).

Under the Norway’s sick leave system, employees can take off three days before they need a doctor’s note. They receive full compensation through 16th day, after which the responsibility shifts to the Norwegian National Insurance scheme. 

For each of the three ASBs respondents were asked several questions. For example, those pertaining to threats/acts of violence were, ‘Over the past 12 months have you:

  • Been the victim of violence at the workplace that caused visible marks or physical damage?
  • Been the victim of violence at the workplace that did not cause visible marks?
  • Been threatened at the workplace in such a way that you felt scared?’

 “In total, 21,671 observations and 13,473 respondents were included in the statistical analyses. The prevalence of sick leave was 18.4% (n=3,986 observations) for LLSL and 16.1% (n=3,492 observations) for HLSL. Sick leave was associated with being a woman, younger age, lower education levels and occupation,” the study said. “In the present study, threats/acts of violence were clearly more prevalent among women and in occupations with high degree of client contact (ie, health professionals, personal service workers, personal care workers and protective services workers), but the strength of the association between threats/acts of violence and sick leave was independent of sex and occupation.”

The proportion of sick leave due to ASB was 5 percent for LLSL and 8 percent for HLSL. Threats/acts of violence were responsible for 3.5 percent of lower level sick leave and 5.5 percent for higher level sick leave.

“In conclusion, in a nationwide study of the general working population, we found that threats/acts of violence, bullying and sexual harassment were all independent predictors of sick leave, with threats/acts of violence appearing as the single most important factor,” the authors wrote.


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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