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Domestic Abuse Briefing

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The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness of the issue of Domestic Abuse and its impact on the workplace. In Scotland, over 66 % of the membership are women. As women are the main sufferers of domestic abuse, then UNISON has a responsibility to ensure that the effect of such abuse does not lead to them being further discriminated in the workplace. This briefing sets out the definition of domestic abuse, the nature and prevalence, why it is a workplace issue and what UNISON needs to do about it.

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Domestic Abuse (as gender-based) can be perpetrated by partners or ex-partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse (such as threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as isolation from family and friends).

Domestic abuse is most commonly perpetrated by men against women.

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According to Scottish Women's Aid, any woman can be abused, regardless of culture, class, age, sexual orientation, disability ethnicity or creed.

Children and young people also experience domestic abuse, either by seeing or hearing the abuse or by being abused themselves.

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It is difficult to know how many women suffer domestic abuse, but research shows that it is widespread and under reported and that the level of repeat victimisation is high. It is estimated that between a quarter and a third of all women in Scotland will experience it at some point in their lives. Domestic abuse is associated with broader inequalities in society; it is part of a range of behaviours constituting male abuse of power and is linked to other forms of violence such as rape and child abuse. Abuse is likely to escalate in frequency and intensity over time and may increase in at specific points in a woman's life, such as during pregnancy and following the birth of a child or at particular times such as when trying to leave the relationship, separation or divorce. Domestic abuse may have a damaging, sometimes life-threatening, impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of a woman.

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Why Domestic Abuse is a Workplace Issue

The effect of domestic abuse on a woman will inevitably lead to problems for her in the workplace. It will lead to: -

  • An increase in sickness absence
  • A decrease in productivity
  • Poor work performance

There is also the additional problem that, for complex reasons, the woman will be reluctant or unable to tell work colleagues and managers what is happening in her life. That is why it is essential for trade unions and employers to produce a policy that addresses the issues of domestic abuse and its impact on the workplace, but that also is sensitive and supportive of the individual suffering this abuse.

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Workplace Policies on Domestic Abuse

UNISON has taken the lead in promoting the issue of domestic abuse in the workplace and negotiating workplace policies. The City of Edinburgh and Fife Council branches already have policies in place.

  • A workplace policy can include the following provisions: -
  • Ensuring employees confidentiality is protected if they seek help
  • Assurance for a woman suffering domestic abuse that her job is secure
  • Job flexibility, including special paid leave
  • Provision of independent counselling during working hours
  • Information about local information and support

UNISON Scotland is currently preparing a model policy, which should be with branches in the New Year.

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What Branches Can Do

Quite apart from starting to talk to employers about negotiating a workplace policy, there are a number of measures which branches can do to support women suffering domestic abuse.

  • Provide support through UNISON Welfare
  • Training for UNISON activists on how to deal with this issue
  • Campaigning for better services for victims of domestic violence, including training for public service workers
  • Lobbying for government action to improve services
  • Working with local agencies, i.e. Scottish Women's Aid, Rape Crisis to raise public awareness
  • Publicise UNISON's policy to all members.

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For Further Information

UNISON Guide "Raise the Roof on Domestic Abuse"
NOTE: This is a dwonload in Adobe Acrobat format. If you do not have Acrobat, click on www.adobe.com for a free download.

Scottish Women's Aid
2nd Floor 132 Rose St
Edinburgh EH2 3JD
Tel: 0131 226 6606
Fax: 0131 226 2996

Scottish Executive Abuse Helpline
0800 027 1234

0131 475 2373

Hemat-Gryffe Women's Aid
0141 353 0859

Shakti Women's Aid
0131 475 2399


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See also...

Womens Organisation Pages

Policy Guide

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