Dickson Highlights Issues of Violence Against Women in the Workplace
The 25th November marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year, UNiTE launched a 16-day campaign to raise awareness of violence against women, beginning from the 25th November, and ending on the 10th December. AKA International Human Rights Day.
Speaking during the campaign, East Antrim Alliance MLA, and Economy Spokesperson, Stewart Dickson said: “Too often we think about violence against women as a domestic issue, or an issue purely occurring in the ‘social’ sphere. The sad reality is that violence against women occurs in every walk of life, and that includes the workplace.
“In Northern Ireland, thousands of woman are going to work every day – physically or virtually - and finding themselves in hostile environments. Some experience intimidation and gender-based bullying, whilst others face sexual misconduct, including harassment and even assault.
“Too often, women endure physical, mental, sexual, and financial trauma, and out of a sense of fear and shame, feel unable to report their experiences.
“For women who find themselves in that position, it is important that you know that your employer has a legal duty of care to protect you whilst at work. Help is available.”
Mr Dickson went on to highlight another issue impacting women in the workplace – that of human trafficking.
He said: “Employers need to be vigilantly aware of the potential for exploitation in the form of human trafficking and modern slavery. Make sure you communicate with your employees to help them recognise indicators of abuse, and ensure reporting procedures are understood.
“There is also an onus on employers to scrutinise their supply chains for signs of exploitation, and to nurture a workplace culture where vulnerable workers feel like they can come forward.”
In addition to work-based violence, and human trafficking, Mr Dickson also raised the issue of domestic violence as it relates to the workplace.
Mr Dickson said: “The workplace can be a lifeline for survivors of domestic abuse.
“Employers should review their policies and procedures to make sure that the right support mechanisms are in place for staff experiencing domestic violence. Possible measures to implement could be: facilitating paid leave for medical and legal appointments; improving workplace security; and offering mental health support.
“It is also important that employers and work colleagues are cognisant of the challenges working-from-home and hybrid-work arrangements pose. The risk either remains the same, or will actually increase, as the victim is physically more constrained. Working with colleagues may be their only engagement with the outside world, and therefore their work relationships may be their best chance of getting help.”
Mr Dickson concluded by saying: “If you are worried about a colleague or employee – either because of work-based bullying and harassment, trafficking, or domestic abuse – help is available.”
For more information on work-based bullying and sexual harassment, click here: www.equalityni.org; or call: 028 90 500 600
For more information on modern slavery and human trafficking, click here: www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/help-victims-modern-slavery-and-human-trafficking
For more information on domestic violence, and support numbers to call, click here: www.nidirect.gov.uk/domestic-abuse
For general work-based advice, visit: www.lra.org.uk