Negotiating workplace domestic abuse policies

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2016 Energy Service Group Conference
26 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the majority of victims of the most severe forms of domestic abuse – and therefore those who are most affected – are women. In the energy service group women account for around 75% of the membership, and this is therefore an issue which has a significant impact on our members in the sector.

Government statistics demonstrate that:

i. 1 in 5 women each year take time off work because of domestic abuse.

ii. 2 in every one hundred will lose their jobs

iii. of those who remain in work, 75% will be harassed, abused, threatened or assaulted at their workplace

The impact on employers – in terms of sickness absence, the cost of recruitment and retention of staff, lost productivity and disruption in the workplace is significant. The financial cost is estimated to be £9.1 billion per year.

This is recognised by the employers’ organisation – the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development – which worked with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to produce guidance for employers, and the local government and health employer organisations who have also produced guidance. No such umbrella guidance exists for employers in the energy sector.

Where approaches have been made, employers in the energy sector have proved reluctant to negotiate with UNISON branches on workplace policies to support those experiencing domestic abuse. Where approaches have been made, employers have said that their employee assistance programme adequately covers the issue, and/or that management guidelines are sufficient.

However, the recommendations in UNISON’s guidance are far more extensive, and include:

a. Training for managers and employees to ensure that all staff are aware of the domestic abuse policy, how support should be accessed and the need for confidentiality;

b. Named staff in human resources with responsibility for, and appropriate training in, dealing with employees experiencing abuse;

c. Special paid leave for relevant appointments, including with support agencies, solicitors, to rearrange housing or childcare, and for court appointments;

d. Temporary or permanent changes to working times and patterns;

e. Changes to specific duties, for example to avoid potential contact with an abuser in a customer facing role;

f. Redeployment or relocation where appropriate;

g. Measures to ensure a safe working environment, for example changing a telephone number to avoid harassing phone calls;

h. Access to counselling and support services in paid time;

i. An advance of pay, where it is needed.

Recognising the significant impact that domestic abuse will have on many women (and men) working in the energy sector, Conference calls upon the SGE to:

1. issue further guidance to branches on negotiating workplace domestic abuse policies.

2. this guidance to include the business case for supporting workers experiencing domestic abuse and good practice examples, to assist branches in persuading employers to enter into negotiations.