Domestic abuse doesn’t stay at home. It impacts every part of people’s lives – their social life, their health and their work. Trade Union GMB are working to support employees.
It might seem an odd fit for a trade union to be concerned about something which has the word ‘domestic ‘ in its title but with over 2 million people in the UK experiencing domestic abuse, a large proportion of these will be in work. The abuse and the effects of abuse don’t stop when someone closes the door to their home. Our members have reported being followed to work, receiving abusive calls and messages, using precious annual or sick leave and making excuses to avoid work socials all together. And experts have reported that the danger only intensifies when someone attempts to flee an abusive relationship.
"My partner started turning up at my workplace at lunchtimes."
This is why we have worked with our members to produce a GMB charter and model workplace policy on Domestic Abuse for employers to use. Since our launch over 100 hundred MPs have signed the Charter as well as employers like Sandwell Council and a Birmingham Children’s Charity, with other companies already starting the process of signing up.
With two women every week and one man every month in the UK being killed by a partner or ex-partner, having an active workplace policy on domestic abuse can be the difference between life and death for workers. One of our members told us the difference simply signposting support in a workplace can make, “After 6 years of working, suddenly I saw a poster in the toilets at work about domestic and sexual violence…Had it not been for that poster in the toilets in my workplace with the rainbow, I would still be like the fish in a bowl swimming with no way out.” This type of signposting is just one of the actions which employers should carry out. Other steps include ensuring workers experiencing Domestic Abuse are not disadvantaged within the terms and conditions of their employment. This is a crucial part of our work, because people experiencing domestic abuse are often subject to disciplinary action or job losses, often through no fault of their own. Financially penalising a person experiencing domestic abuse can add another barrier for someone trying to leave an abusive relationship.
- See also: Mental health services 'should always enquire' whether domestic abuse has occurred
- See also: It’s not about the money, it’s about control: what financial abuse really looks like
- See also: The resilience narrative obscures the wider causes and solutions for children's mental health
Another key ask from our members, was that reasonable adjustments are made to protect them not just during working hours but also travelling to and from work. This member’s harrowing experience highlights the impact it had on their work, “After a few months in the role my partner at the time, started constantly calling to see what I was doing, turning up at my workplace at lunchtimes unexpectedly or demanding I be home for a certain time…I was walking round on eggshells at home and now at work. The calls and visits became more frequent… I found myself making excuses for not being able to attend social events with colleagues, wearing clothes to hide bruises or taking sick leave when I couldn’t cover them up.” Relatively simple adjustments like changing a work phone number, staggering start and finish times as well as having the option of stepping back from public facing roles to avoid interacting with perpetrators could make all the difference.
Supporting all staff
These aren’t big asks for employers. Being a good employer recognises the shared responsibility to support staff through new or difficult periods in their lives. Domestic abuse has devastating impacts on individuals and their families – but this initiative isn’t just about the individual – having an understanding and effective workplace policy to deal with the impact of domestic abuse will build a more nurturing and safer working environment for all staff, encouraging greater staff retention and importantly economic independence for those people living with or fleeing domestic abuse. One member described how they felt when their employer supported them during their leaving an abusive marriage, “in return work had not only a happy, healthy and loyal employee but on a basic level, I was alive and free.”