Domestic Abuse: A Workplace Issue

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2023 National Women's Conference
13 October 2022

This conference notes that whilst there is often a proactive approach, policies, and systems in place for customers that organizations serve when it comes to tackling domestic abuse and violence there may not be the same levels of provision for staff. It is also recognized that whilst there may be workplace policies in existence; the education, training, and knowledge of how to both recognize and deal with domestic violence in the workplace can be inconsistent and given little priority by employers of our women members. We have learnt that the approaches taken can be for instance via sickness and absence policies and even, if domestic abuse and violence are not identified, cases where women have been subjected to action via disciplinary procedures.

Women make up over 70% of Unison membership and statistics show by far the majority the victims of domestic abuse and violence are women. We still hear of women who are subject to domestic violence end up taking their annual leave to deal with matters such as court attendance, legal case preparation as well as time off to seek or get legal advice.

In April 2020, the Home Affairs Committee said there was “evidence that cases are escalating more quickly to become complex and serious, with higher levels of physical violence and coercive control.” Karen Ingala-Smith, who runs the ‘Counting Dead Women’ project, estimated that during the first three weeks of the first lockdown, there had been sixteen domestic abuse killings of women and children in the UK, which was the highest for at least 11 years. The 2022 Unison Health Care Service Group Conference carried a motion that Domestic Violence is still a workplace issue and how the pandemic had increased levels of domestic violence and that employers need to be reminded of their duty of care for employees.

The need for safe spaces that might be useful for those subject to domestic abuse including safe and secure places to store papers; time off to seek legal advice, ad hoc short notice if situations are developing and need to be dealt with quickly are some of the quick solutions that can really make a difference to the women having to deal with the domestic abuse. Women who are experiencing domestic violence have need a level of both understanding and practical support from their employer. This could mean considerations such as a moves of job, workplace or even hours where there may be a need to meet the criteria for Universal Credit.

Conference calls on the National Womens Committee to work with all appropriate UNISON departments, service groups and regional womens groups to;

1)Review and update the existing guidance on Domestic Violence and Abuse, a Trade Union Issue.

2)Review and update the presently available training courses and information for activists and women members who may be impacted by domestic violence either directly or indirectly

3)Review and update, in light of increased home working, the model workplace agreement on Domestic Violence and Abuse. This advice to consider now also including but not be limited to;

• Plans for implementation & monitoring

• Guidance on creating “safe spaces”

• Training and information to manage domestic abuse appropriately in the workplace.

4. Report back on progress to the National Womens Conference 2024