Domestic Abuse- Why it’s an Issue for GMB Union Reps.
You’re sat in yet another sickness absence meeting representing a member that you’ve been here with so many times before. Your employer has one of the less draconian absence policies in place, which really is lucky. You can’t help but thinking how fortunate your member is that they work here and not somewhere that has a very rigid policy which deals with absences with little sympathy. Your member knows the routine by now, is there anything the employer can do to help support them? Are there any adjustments needed which might help them to maintain an acceptable attendance? The member shrugs, mumbles apologies and says they’ll really try to improve their attendance, says how much they love coming to work. Sound familiar?
It has been estimated that 53% of domestic abuse victims miss at least 3 days of work per month, some of this may be as a direct result of injuries or it could be time needed to seek legal advice, medical help or counselling. For some victims of domestic abuse, the workplace may be their place of safety, a refuge away from the harm they face at home and their only point of non-confrontational company. Similarly, for some victims, the workplace can often become the only place where the perpetrator knows they can locate their victim, creating a hostile environment in what was once the place of sanctuary.
Domestic abuse takes many different forms and can include but is not limited to: Actual or threats of physical violence- There is no denying the harm that can be caused by actual physical violence which could lead to injury or even death. The threat of physical violence can also be incredibly harmful, leaving the victim suffering fear and anxiety.
Actual or threat of sexual violence-The act of using or threatening to use sexual acts against the victims wishes.
Psychological abuse-Anything from belittling the victim, threats to harm the victim and/or the children, to threatening to self harm if the victim tries to leave the perpetrator.
Verbal abuse- name calling, derogatory comments, verbally threatening.
Financial abuse- withholding information on joint finances, not allowing victim access to money without perpetrator knowing.
Coercive control- seeking to change how the victim behaves, dresses, looks, who they see including family and friends.
It is for these reasons that a robust workplace policy is needed to help recognise people who may be suffering some form of domestic abuse and to ensure the correct process is used to support victims rather than using a punitive absence policy which may only serve to add to stress and anxiety already felt.
There are already some quite good policies out there, others exist that recognise domestic abuse as a problem but don’t necessarily go far enough to support victims. The GMB have a policy which may be of interest to reps who want to start a conversation with their employer or who may wish to strengthen an existing workplace policy.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, no matter what gender or socio economic class, it is vital as activists we make employers aware of the potential of the problem and look to offer support those who need it.
click to download PDF of workplace policy
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