Domestic Abuse Survivors: Workplace Policy

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 12:00 am, 15th November 2018

If the Government will take steps to ensure that companies put in place workplace policies to support survivors of domestic abuse and reduce its effect on the workplace.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The Government are committed to transforming their approach to domestic abuse, and that includes improving the response of employers to this devastating crime. We have therefore awarded £1 million to the charity Hestia for its “Tools for the Job” pilot project, which will help employers to improve their HR policies on domestic abuse and will fund specialist employment domestic violence advocates. We are also working closely with the employers initiative, which does similar work.

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Victims of domestic abuse and violence tell us that a short period of leave from work while they manage to sort out the difficulties in their lives would be helpful. Will the Minister agree to meet employers and trade unions to discuss the possibility of introducing paid leave for victims of domestic violence?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

Very much so. I keep pointing out to employers that having policies that can help to identify and support victims of domestic abuse in their workforces makes not only good moral sense but good business sense. I should be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman, and employers and trade unions, to discuss what more we can do to help.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Of course, domestic violence affects not just women but men, too; but what contact has my hon. Friend had with companies such as the John Lewis Partnership, whose chief executive takes a particularly proactive approach to care in her company?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

We tend to focus on women as being the victims of domestic abuse because the statistics show us that it is a gendered crime, but I never forget the fact that, of course, men can be the victims of domestic abuse. That is why we are doing a great deal of work, both through the domestic violence and abuse Bill and through non-legislative measures, to support them and ensure that services are there for them.

I am sure that the John Lewis Partnership is part of the employers initiative, a piece of work in which I am very involved and about which I am very enthusiastic. I should be delighted to support John Lewis not just in a spending capacity, but in a legislative capacity as well.

Photo of Rachel Reeves Rachel Reeves Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

When I recently visited a Leeds Women’s Aid hostel, which does fantastic work throughout my city, it raised the problems experienced by women in low-paid work in accessing emergency accommodation. What support can the Government give to ensure that women feel confident enough to leave violent relationships and seek support?

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

The hon. Lady has raised an extremely important point. There have been more refuge places since 2010 under this Government, and in the summer we reconfirmed the funding arrangements for refuges. When I visit refuges, which are incredibly important places for women who need to flee very dangerous situations, what I hear from those women is that they would like to have that support at an earlier stage so that they do not have to be the ones who leave—so that he leaves, rather than her—and we are working on that as well.