Workplace assaults are not limited to the Oscars stage

Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello).
Glenn Reid

LAST month, it was well reported that the host of an awards ceremony was assaulted whilst performing his comedic duties. Chris Rock (in)famously made a joke at the expense of Jada Pinkett Smith that resulted in her husband, Will Smith, taking to the stage of the 94th Academy Awards and slapping Rock across the face.

The assault shook the world, making headlines and trending on Twitter for days. Moments later, Smith was awarded the Oscar for best actor. It was described as unprecedented in the circumstances, and many commentators were quick to pick a side.

Some heralded Will Smith as the chivalrous husband defending the honour of the woman he loves, others decried him as being a violent thug. Some even dismissed the incident as a staged publicity stunt.

What failed to make headlines is the number of people who faced a similar experience at work that week. Assaults in the workplace are not uncommon in Northern Ireland.

Late last year, it was reported by The Irish News that healthcare workers faced a 21 per cent increase in physical assaults. It amassed widespread condemnation and prompted calls for politicians to support the 'Support our Staff' campaign by the 17 chairs of Northern Ireland's health bodies and the Fire and Rescue Service

Health Minister Robin Swann called on everyone to reject such despicable behaviour aimed at healthcare workers.

Workplace assaults are not limited to the healthcare sector, or the Academy Awards. Retail workers, police officers and public transport operators are just a few among many that face the potential of violence each time they clock in.

In instances that an employee has faced violence in the workplace, there may be legal recourse available to them that extends beyond reporting the incident to the police.

Employers in Northern Ireland must conduct regular risk assessments. If an employee was injured during an assault and a risk assessment could have reasonably foreseen the possibility of an assault taking place, it begs the question, why were steps not put in place to prevent, or at least mitigate against, an assault ever taking place?

Tanya Waterworth of McCartan Turkington Breen Solicitors said: “Everyone has the right to remain safe at work. Our firm has represented many people who have been assaulted during the course of their employment. It is not as uncommon as people may think and I would advise anyone who has been assaulted at work to seek independent legal advice.”

If an employer is found to be liable for the injuries sustained during a preventable assault, the victim could be owed compensation for those injuries.

In instances where the attack could not have been reasonably predicted, the victim can explore the possibility of a criminal injury claim through the Compensation Services. This government backed scheme is made possible through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 1988.

Chris Rock may or may not decide to litigate against the Academy or Will Smith. For now, it seems that the A-listers buried the hatchet quickly and a police report was not filed at the time.

But, for the unseen majority of workplace assault victims that are unable to move on so swiftly, know that there is legal recourse and that you can access justice.

:: Glenn Reid ( is a legal marketing specialist and marketing manager of McCartan Turkington Breen Solicitors (

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