Provision that may be made by notices

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 10th June 2020.

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Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office) 11:00 am, 10th June 2020

I agree, and I will move on to concerns about people working in the same building. It is a very real issue; a quarter of people meet their partner at work—I met my husband in Kings Heath Park when I was 12; it is now many happy years later.

The Bill must not exclude the workplace from victims’ protections, when it is the place where many victims will spend the majority of their time—those of us in this room know that our time at work far outstrips the time we spend anywhere else. I have to say that what is in the Bill with regard to DAPOs really does recognise the idea of a victim’s life and where people are. The only deficit is specifically with regard to workplaces.

For example, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd referred to, where a victim and a perpetrator share a workplace, a DAPO could specify distances and support employers to make the changes to shift patterns, or locations, or the perpetrator’s work space. The amendment would allow victims to keep their job and to continue working, as necessary steps can be taken to ensure that they have no contact with the perpetrator.

I understand that the Government may feel that non-police interventions for protections may be considered more effective. However, my interaction with the Health and Safety Executive speaks to a different reality, and the evidence that victims need protection in the workplace is clear.

Undoubtedly, in some situations there will need to be stronger enforcement to protect victims and to ensure that there is no unnecessary loss of life. In situations where the victim is in serious danger, workplaces should be a place of safety, but this will only be the case if protections are properly enforced by police interventions.

The amendment seeks for judges to include the consideration of the workplace in DAPOs; it does not have to be included. As we have said, one of the good things about DAPOs is that they are flexible, and there is no compulsion on the court or the applicant to request this consideration in addition to protection in the home. The amendment does not necessarily mean that all DAPOs will feature the victim’s workplace; as I have said, it will be at the discretion of the judiciary and those presenting the case.

In cases where perpetrators’ access to their workplace is restricted due to a DAPO, workplaces should be able to support both the perpetrator and victim to ensure that as few limitations as possible are placed on them, but ultimately they must ensure that they operate a zero-tolerance policy towards any kind of harassment.

I am fearful. I have been trying for years to look at different models for how we can support victims of domestic abuse in the workplace. When perpetrators and victims work together, the issue we always run up against is that it gets too difficult because of the potential infringement on the liberties of people in the workplace. But this infringes on the liberties of the victim every single day. We put a man on the moon 50 years ago. It is not too difficult for us to come up with something. Let him Zoom in—that is what we have all been doing. Can he not use Zoom in his new place of work? We have all learned that we do not have to physically be here in order to work—unless the Leader of the House says otherwise, in which case we are entitled to different options. We cannot live in this modern society and think that this is too difficult to address because people work together, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd has said. We are better than that. What is that phrase? “World beating”. Let us be world beating in how we deal with domestic abuse in the workplace.

The amendment would protect victims with life-saving orders and give them the opportunity to be protected at work. It would also present a chance to push forward, as so much of the Bill seeks to do, the idea that workplaces across the country should be safe for vulnerable people. The amendment would force employers to consider their role. By agreeing to this amendment, the Committee would be saying that we believe in the DAPO and that it has a chance to keep people safe. The amendment would also do what we all hope the Bill will do. It would break ground and enable us to say, for the first time, to the bosses and to Philip White of the Health and Safety Executive, “This is the responsibility of all of us.”