Issue date
On the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th November), The trade union federations of Great Britain and the island of Ireland (TUC, STUC, WTUC and ICTU) which together represent over 6 million workers, call for urgent interventions to support victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence in work and in society.

Domestic abuse is always a workplace issue and trade unions know that work is often a place of safety for women experiencing domestic abuse.

Every year sees mounting evidence of the devastating impact of violence against women but 2020 has been particularly difficult. During lockdowns, which extended to all parts of the UK and Ireland, many women were stuck at home with the perpetrator of violence, unable to escape to, what for many women, is the safety of their workplace.

During this time, trade unions across these islands joined the call for additional emergency support for organisations supporting victims of domestic violence. As our societies eventually emerge from lockdowns and restrictions, however, and people return to work, it is vital that employers and Governments around the UK and Ireland consider what is required to support victims in the longer term.

We know that the effect of domestic abuse spills over into the workplace and we also know that providing a supportive workplace can make a real difference to women who are suffering domestic abuse and violence.

That’s why we are calling on our Governments to immediately ratify ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. Article 18 of the accompanying recommendation specifies measures which should be taken to mitigate the impacts of domestic violence at work including leave for the victims of domestic violence, flexible work arrangements and the inclusion of domestic violence in workplace risk assessments.

Employers must also work with trade unions to develop workplace policies to ensure that appropriate supports are in place. This should include ensuring that Managers and HR specialists as well as trade union reps are trained in how to spot the signs of domestic violence as well as how to support and appropriately signpost people. Employers should also consider measures such as adjusting work patterns, allowing flexibility in arrival or finishing times.

No one should lose their job or pay because of domestic abuse. As the trade union federations across the UK and Ireland, we are calling for victims of domestic abuse to be given additional employment rights.

Very often people need to take time off to access legal or financial support and during the working day is the only safe time to do this. A day one right to paid time off from work to access this support, as in countries like Australia or New Zealand, would make a real difference to women’s lives. The organisations which support women and their families who are victims of violence do a fantastic job, but very often, they are operating on a shoestring. Governments need to prioritise properly resourcing these organisations as well as committing to school programmes which support young people to learn about healthy relationships.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC

Rozanne Foyer, General Secretary, STUC

Patricia King, General Secretary, ICTU 

Shavanah Taj, General Secretary, WTUC

Editors note

For Further Information

TUC: Sian Elliott, Women’s Equality Policy Officer 020 7467 1277

ICTU Northern Ireland: Clare Moore, Equality and Social Affairs Officer 07939 477 658

ICTU Republic of Ireland: David Joyce, Equality, Social Affairs and International Development Officer 003531 889 7777

STUC: Eireann McAuley, STUC Equality Policy Officer 0141 337 8100

Wales TUC: Rhianydd Williams, Policy and Campaigns Officer 029 2034 7010