Domestic Violence is a Union issue
Today, is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (a bit of a mouthful – let’s just call it UNIDEVAW). It’s an important date in the calendar for campaigners for women’s rights and it’s been marked on 25th November since 1981. It was originally organised as commemoration of the assassination of three political activists, the Mirabal sisters, in the Dominican Republic in 1961. As those who campaign for trade union freedoms in Colombia and elsewhere know all too well, violence against women, sexual violence, and political oppression all too often go hand in hand.
The TUC is marking UNIDEVAW this year by launching a petition calling on the government to sign up to an important Council of Europe Convention on violence against women.
We’re also launching a survey on domestic violence and the impact on the working lives of survivors.
Domestic violence may happen behind closed doors but it has far reaching consequences and is known to have an impact on the working lives of those living with an abusive partner. This won’t come as a surprise to many union reps who will have had to support members experiencing domestic abuse.
The scale of the problem is huge. In the UK, in any one year, more than 20% of employed women take time off work because of domestic abuse, and 2% lose their jobs as a direct result of the abuse. A Home Office report in 2009 found that 20% of victims of domestic abuse had to take a month or more off work in the previous year due to the abuse. Other research has found that 56% of abused women arrive late for work at least five times a month and 53% miss at least three days of work a month.
Union reps are an important part of this picture. For those suffering abuse at home, the workplace can be a place of refuge and safety and a friendly union rep often is the first port of call when seeking help. Reps can support individual members in dealing with management and seeking time off work. Unions also have a role in bargaining for better workplace policies on domestic violence.
Unions in Australia have successfully campaigned on domestic violence as a workplace issue and have negotiated 20 days of paid leave in cases of domestic violence across the whole of the public sector. The ability to take time off work without facing disciplinary action or losing out on pay is crucial for survivors of domestic violence who are trying to flee an abusive relationship. Finding a new home, getting a place at a refuge, securing school places for kids, seeking legal advice, opening a new bank account and seeking medical help and counselling all take time. Good workplace policies on domestic violence often offer advances on pay to help survivors of domestic violence get through a period when they may have no access to cash or their own money is being withheld by an abusive partner.
The first step in convincing employers that there’s a need for strong domestic violence policies is to show them the extent of the problem and the impact that it has on working lives. This survey will provide that evidence. We would like to hear from anyone who has either experienced domestic violence themselves or has a friend or colleague who has experienced domestic violence.
The survey is entirely anonymous. You will not be asked for your name, contact details or any information which could be used to identify you or your employer.
Please take a few minutes to share your experience with us and please do pass the link on to any friends or colleagues who might want to participate. The survey is available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/domesticviolenceTUC and will close on 1 February 2014.