by Ana Pérez
25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Linking domestic violence and working life is arguably counterintuitive. An initial reaction is that violence is about people’s relationships and should not impinge on work. Arguably too, co-workers, employers and trade union representatives are not “social workers” and have no business getting involved in such things. Victims’ stories, however, show that violence has severely affected their working lives. Like it or not, there is clear evidence that domestic violence does intrude into work and vocational integration.
Domestic violence has a big impact on victims’ working lives – it stops them doing or finding a job. Yet keeping or getting a job is vital to them. Not just for obvious reasons of financial independence, but also because the work community is often the first place where victims can find a listening ear and informal support.
Domestic violence also affects and incurs a high cost for victims’ employers and co-workers through lost productivity, resignations, replacements, extended absences and sick leave, harassment by partners at workplaces or training sites, putting co-workers in danger and under stress.
Victims who are listened to, get support and adapted working and vocational integration arrangements can take more timely action to keep themselves and their children safe.
Three interconnecting approaches can help victims keep their jobs or complete a careers guidance, training or vocational integration process:
1/ Prevention through awareness-raising in companies to make the different aspects of violence and how they operate better known, to unpick entrenched public stereotypes. Victims feel shame, and will often not describe what they are enduring as “violence”. The message must be got over that “violence is a serious violation of fundamental human rights”. There is no excuse for it, the victim is not to blame.
2/ Help from link workers who are trained to spot violence, can listen to the victim -and the abuser- and support them in accessing specialized provision.
3/ Identifying ways of addressing the different practical problems encountered in workplace and vocational integration sites, such as taking safety precautions, adjusting working hours if necessary, screening phone calls, ensuring that co-workers keep an eye out.
Finally, national laws and collective agreements (if any) must ensure that victims are protected and not penalized by losing their job, and can have the time off work needed to take the necessary action to bring an end to the abuse.
This assessment and these assumptions provided the basis for work done by COFACE a few years ago, in partnership with 4 member organisations from Belgium, Greece, Spain and Bulgaria and a Belgian Trade Union, under the framework of the EU’s Daphne III programme.
More information about the project, please click here