Domestic Violence is a Workplace Issue

In the UK 1 in 3 women and 2.5% of men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. 1 in 5 working women have taken time off because of domestic abuse. And yet, only 5% of employers have specific Domestic Abuse Policies to tackle the issue and support their employees.   

The Domestic Abuse Bill is currently being discussed to revise the definition of abuse. It will now include economic and financial abuse to acknowledge that the impossibility to manage resources makes victims dependants of their abusers. The new Law might be well intended, however, it falls short. We don’t have time to see this implemented, or to wait for the funding and resources to reach our communities. We don’t have enough paper to list everyone who will still be unprotected under this Law.

For some people, fleeing abuse could mean homelessness or even deportation. Women with no access to public funds (asylum seekers and undocumented migrants) are denied access to shelter when trying to flee their abusers. They have no access to housing or benefits. The Police share information regarding migration status of victims of abuse with the Home Office for immigration control purposes. BME, Migrant, Disabled, LGBTQIA, Unemployed women are and will still be at higher risk of being left behind and then blamed for their misfortune. 

Moreover, the combination of poor working conditions and sexism in our workplaces makes it harder for victims and survivors of abuse to access the resources and support they need. If we want to create workplace solidarity we need to be aware of the fact that our colleagues may be experiencing violence at home. But we also can not dismiss the signs when a colleague is an abuser. 

It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and organise to create safer workplaces.  If you are in a unionised workplace get involved and push for better conditions. Ask for Domestic Abuse Policies to be put in place in line with the VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) legislation. If your workplace is not unionised you can still discuss with your colleagues and organise to improve your conditions, create a support plan for victims and survivors and ensure that no one gets disciplined at work as a result of being abused at home.

Supporting victims and survivors of domestic violence at work:

– Believe them.

– Respect their privacy. Confidentiality is essential, regardless of your relationship with the person. Do not discuss their private life with other colleagues, friends or management without their permission.

– Remember, fleeing abuse is not always an option. Listen and support, do not act on behalf or report unless they are in immediate danger. You might make the situation worse for them.

– Help them out with their workload, cover for them if they need time out. Do not snitch on them if they haven’t done their work.

– Change shifts or placements with them when possible so their abuser doesn’t know their working pattern.

– When possible answer the phone for them to avoid possible calls from the abuser.

– Offer to pick them up and take them home to avoid encountering their abuser.

– Be ready in case the abuser shows up at the workplace.

-Show active support accompanying them in disciplinary hearings and sickness reviews. 

– If the abuser is one of your colleagues (or your boss) make sure they are never alone with them and help by recording evidence of the abusers behaviour.

– Take collective action against unfair dismissals and disciplinary action.

Demand changes in your working conditions and workplace culture to support them further:

– Flexible working arrangements, adjust workload maintaining full pay. 

– Paid time off – specific paid leave differentiated from entitled annual leave.

– Adjust working hours, location, change telephone number/email to prevent their abuser from contacting them or visiting the workplace.

– No disciplinary action due to absence or low performance. 

– Money advances to help survivors. 

– Safe access to specialist services and information.

– Staff training and awareness to ensure first response is safe and appropriate. 

– Elaborate a Domestic Abuse Policy with a safety plan which establishes a support network for victims and survivors. 

Sexism and gender-based violence is everyone’s responsibility. Last year alone 2.4 million adults experienced domestic abuse in the UK. Look around you and organise to change this. 

If you are interested in organising in your workplace the Solidarity Federation run a number of training courses including a training course aimed at women who wish to organise in their workplaces. Alternatively we would appreciate any anonymous stories/examples about experiences of domestic abuse at work to be used in the training. For more information email solfed.training@gmail.com

Links: 

sistersuncut.org for a direct action approached to campaigning. 

safety4sisters.org supports migrant women in the North West.

Women’sAid

Step Up Migrant Women Coalition

Refuge 

Liverpool Domestic Abuse Services

Victim Care Merseyside

Men’s Advise Line 

Merseyside Domestic Violence Services

South Liverpool Domestic Abuse Services

Worst Kept Secret Helpline

RASA Merseyside

Savera UK – honour based abuse

Respect Phoneline – help for perpetrators.

IDVA – Independent domestic violence advisors.

Sources:

Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019

Domestic Violence and the workplace: a TUC survey report

Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: findings from the British Crime Survey

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