Support pandemic domestic abuse victims call

London councils urged to instigate workers’ support blueprint

Reading time: 4 min

The increase in domestic abuse across the general population caused by the pressures of the pandemic has prompted Unite the union to write to all 32 London boroughs asking them to instigate a three-point blueprint to support those employees who may have suffered such abuse.

Unite has offered to meet local authority managers to chart a way forward as  employers, after the union said there had been ‘a sharp increase in domestic abuse’ across the population since the first lockdown in March last year, which would include council employees.

In the letter to the councils, Unite regional officer Onay Kasab wrote, “You will, of course, be aware that this has increased during the pandemic, exacerbated by lockdowns and economic pressure. We hope that you also agree that domestic abuse is a workplace issue.

“It can affect employment through absenteeism. Particularly in light of the increase, we believe that now is the time to relook at policies and procedures.

“We do not pretend for one moment that these proposals solve the problem. But equally, we do not believe that those suffering abuse should also have to worry about pay and formal warnings regarding absence.”

The three-point plan that Unite is urging councils to adopt is:

  • paid leave on full pay for workers experiencing domestic abuse
  • no disciplinary action/warnings with regards to absence, or detriment to pay and conditions, for those experiencing domestic abuse
  • training for all trade union reps and staff, including managers regarding domestic abuse.

Commenting Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said, “The pandemic and the three lockdowns, coupled with the economic impact of wage cuts and job losses, have led to a sharp increase in domestic abuse.

“This increase is across the population generally and would, unfortunately, include some members of the local authority workforce in London who would greatly benefit from the proposals being put forward by Unite.

“We have a key role as trade unions in ensuring that employers have policies in place which do not make things any harder for those who are having to cope with abuse.

“The dreadful reality is that employers can legally issue warnings to and deduct the pay of workers who are genuinely ill. But it does not have to be this way.

“We are asking that local government employers set an example for other employers across the public, private and not for profit sectors to follow.

“Nobody, who has to take time off on sickness grounds because of domestic abuse, should have their pay cut or receive a disciplinary or formal warning.

“Local government employers can go beyond condemning domestic abuse and adopt these measures. Unite is ready to discuss these proposals in the weeks ahead.”

By Shaun Noble

Related Articles