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Employers and Unions

Legislation should address women’s economic empowerment [internal link to victim services below], access to the labor market, and safety in the workplace as key components of implementing laws on violence against women. Relative to employers, laws should:

  • Mandate that employers not discriminate against victims of violence
  • Mandate that employers reasonably accommodate the special needs of women victims of violence (leave, flex time, transfers, etc.) to enable them to maintain their employment
  • Require that employers coordinate with women at risk of violence on safety planning in the workplace
  • Place a duty on employers to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment and violence against women

Employers are a primary focus of legislation when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. For more information on drafting legislation relative to sexual harassment, see the Sexual Harassment chapter of this knowledge asset. [link to sexual harassment] But as noted above, employers’ supportive role goes well beyond preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. Relative to unions, legislation should facilitate unions’ ability to advocate on behalf of the rights of their women members.

Legislative Approaches Worldwide

In France, the entity that regulates unemployment insurance introduced a new category of legitimate resignation enabling women victims of violence to receive unemployment benefits when they have to change their place of residence as a result of violence. See: UNEDIC Convention of 18 January 2006, UN Secretary-General’s database on violence against women.

Israel’s Prevention of Family Violence Law prohibits employers from firing women who need to move to a shelter because of violence.

Spain’s Organic Act 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence modified articles of several Spanish laws such as the Employment Act, the Workers’ Statute Act, the Organic Judiciary Act, the Civil Service Reform Act and the General Social Security Act to protect the rights to employment of women who have been victims of violence. For example, one such change was a new section 5 added to article 30 of the Civil Service Reform Act 30/1984 of 2 August, which states:

In cases where female civil servants suffering gender violence have had to be absent from work for related causes, such absence, whether total or partial, shall be deemed to be justified, for the time and under the conditions stipulated by the social services or health services, whichever is relevant. Female civil servants who are the victims of gender violence shall have the right to a reduction in their working day, with a proportional reduction in wages, or the reorganisation of work time, through the adaptation of working hours, the application of flexitime or some other available form of work time organisation, in the interests of their protection or to exercise their entitlement to integrated social assistance, under the terms laid down by the government authority competent in each case.

In the United States, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides victims of domestic or sexual violence, or their family members, with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. Upon returning to work, employers must reinstate employees in their original job or in an equivalent post. Many U.S. states have also implemented similar legislation which may grant greater protection to employees.