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Policies and collective agreements on domestic violence

Last edited: July 08, 2020

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Women workers sometimes experience domestic violence at their workplace, for example, when an abusive partner follows them to work or when that partner shares the same workplace. This has a direct impact on the physical and psychological wellbeing of the victim, as well as on that of the other workers and employers within their surroundings. Moreover, domestic violence committed in the home can negatively impact on the victim’s working life and working environment, affecting productivity, attendance at work and the victim’s ability to access or remain in work.

In such cases, workplace policies and collective agreements on domestic violence, while not extending their protection to private households, can provide essential support to the victims. For example, they can allow flexible working hours or the use of pseudonyms on name plates to avoid stalking, or they can provide leave for victims to seek medical aid, attend judicial proceedings or move their children to safe places. Other practical assistance can include applying protection orders that cover the victim’s place of work or maintaining a precautionary distance between victim and perpetrator. In some cases, the victim’s absences or late arrivals to work will be considered justifiable, by law, if they are due to physical or psychological reasons derived from domestic violence.[1]  

Promising practices of collective agreements and workplace policies addressing domestic violence include:

  • Establishing specific safety and security measures in the workplace to deal with domestic violence, such as safety planning to prevent assault, harassment or stalking at the workplace and measures to deal with harassing phone calls and e-mails.
  • Training workplace representatives, safety and health representatives, line managers and colleagues on identifying the warning signs of domestic violence and on facilitating referrals to specialist support agencies.
  • Intervening as early as possible, before violence escalates and the victims feel the only option to resolve the situation is quitting work.
  • Providing flexible (paid or unpaid) leave or flexible working hours to enable victims to seek protection, attend court appointments, or seek safe housing for children.
  • Providing protection from dismissal during a certain period of time, to ensure victims can maintain their source of income, while leaving a violent situation. 
  • Designating trusted, trained contact persons in the workplace, to enable victims to confidentially disclose their situation and to seek help.
  • Provide psychological and practical support for victims, including access to counselling and to discuss options confidentially and non-judgmentally with a trusted person in the workplace. Other practical support can include information about, and signposting to, specialist services.
  • Providing financial support, such as advance payment of salaries or financial support in moving house.
  • Disciplinary procedures in dealing with perpetrators, setting out relevant sanctions, such as dismissal.

Workplace policies and collective agreements on domestic violence

Commonwealth Bank, Australia[2]

The Commonwealth Bank is one of Australia’s largest employers with 41,000 employees. In 2015, in recognition that victims, bystanders and perpetrators could be amongst its staff, the bank drew up a comprehensive strategy to respond to domestic and family violence. The goals of the strategy are to provide a safe place to work, support customers in crisis, promote financial independence and champion gender equality. Policy measures include provision of domestic violence leave of 10 days, domestic violence support toolkits for employees and managers, and a Domestic Violence First Response Guide to assist leaders and managers to support employees who are experiencing domestic violence.

Over 600 employees, in partnership with the University of New South Wales Gendered Violence Research Network, have been trained to increase their awareness about how to support employees and customers, and an e-learning module about domestic violence has been drawn up for all staff. In 2017, a pilot Domestic and Family Violence Emergency Assistance Package, was launched in partnership with specialist support organizations, providing customers and employees with expert counselling and financial support to ensure their immediate safety and assist those looking to leave an abusive situation. Already over 1,000 customers have accessed the package.

National Australia Bank (NAB) (NAB Enterprise Agreement, 2014)

NAB adopted in 2014 an Enterprise Agreement that provides a scheme of paid domestic violence leave and access to counselling under the domestic leave policy to employees. In the agreement, no maximum duration is given for domestic violence leave, which will be determined by the individual’s situation through consultation (NAB Enterprise Agreement, 2014, clause 50.4). Implementation of the policy is the first of its kind for a major Australian Bank, and through this initiative NAB hopes to encourage employees who experience domestic violence to come forward and seek support. NAB found a strong business case for allowing victims to take the time they need to recover, given the negative impact domestic violence can have on employees’ ability to attend and perform at work (UN Women Australia, 2017).

Canadian workplace policies on domestic violence - The Sinai Health System Policy[3]

In Canada, the Ontario Occupational Health & Safety Act (Section 32.0.4) sets out employers’ responsibilities to take precautions to protect a worker and provide a safe workplace for victims of domestic violence. It requires that employers draw up a policy on workplace domestic violence and inform employees of the policy, which has to be reviewed each year.

In 2011, the Toronto-based Sinai Health System adopted a policy to raise awareness and increase capacity in providing a safe work environment for workers who are victims of domestic violence. It sets out a range of measures to ensure privacy and confidentiality of victims of domestic violence, responding in non-discriminatory ways, and encouraging employees who suspect or witness acts of domestic violence to come forward.  Guidance is also given on how to respond to employees who commit domestic violence, relating to disciplinary action and referrals to programmes in the community for perpetrators. Procedures are put in place on how the organization can respond to and support victims, and key staff and managers are trained on how to recognize and respond to domestic violence at work.

Guidance is given on safety measures that can be implemented, including safety planning in the workplace, for example, to ensure that security personnel can identify a perpetrator, implementing a safe walk program by escorting an employee to and from their car or other transport, assigning special parking spots, screening telephone calls, enforcing restraining orders, and relocating an employee’s workspace to a more secure area. Guidance also covers how to enable an employee to seek safety and protection, for example, to attend court hearings, arrange for new housing, attend counselling etc., and for flexible work hours and short-term leave of absence.

Hc Energi?a Group agreement and equality plan in Spain (UN Women and United Nations Global Compact, 2015, p.38)[4]

Hc Energi?a Group is a Spanish energy group which has implemented a collective agreement and equality plan to promote gender equality, work-life balance and the health and safety of women workers, including recruitment of women victims of gender-based violence into its workforce. The company has implemented a prevention and intervention protocol to report moral, physical or sexual harassment or gender inequalities. Protection is given to victims of gender-based violence through provision of flexibility in working hours, leave, transfers and access to loans, as well as psychological, medical and legal advice and a bonus for accommodation rental expenses in case victims need to move out of their homes.

Agbar agreement with the Catalan Parliament in Spain (UN Women and United Nations Global Compact, 2015, p.12)

Agbar, a Spanish based holding company in the public sector, signed an agreement with the Catalan Parliament to hire women victims of gender-based violence. During the pilot phase, each of the nine companies who signed the agreement committed to hire and provide support and training to at least three women who had experienced gender-based violence. Agbar hired three women after signing the contract and, currently, two of them are still on the permanent staff - there is a sensitive approach to allocating work tasks and in helping women to balance work and home life.

Endesa group’s diversity policies, including domestic violence in Spain (UN Women and United Nations Global Compact, 2015, p.32)

The Spanish multi-national electricity company Endesa has a Corporate Diversity Management Policy which aims to make diversity a key business strategy. To foster this policy, Endesa, together with BBVA and Telefonica, created the Diversity Observatory, and along with the Diversity Global Scorecard enables the company to check the fulfillment of equal opportunities principles.

In Spain, Endesa’s Plan for Equal Opportunities between women and men includes special measures aimed at assisting victims of gender-based violence; it allows victims of domestic violence who normally work a split timetable (morning and afternoon with a 2 or 3 hour break for lunch) to temporarily modify their timetable to work continuously with a half hour lunch break (Endesa, 2014). Endesa also provides support measures such as psychological support, medical care and legal aid to deal with processes regarding protection orders, child custody, food payments, organising loans or social care. Financial assistance is given to victims for a maximum period of 6 months, including when a victim has to leave the family home and the company will pay 50 per cent of the rental of a new home and up to 50 per cent of expenses related to changing the school of young children, covering registration fees, books and uniforms.

Carrefour Hypermarkets tackling violence against women (Carrefour, 2017)

In 2017, Carrefour published the guide "Tackling violence against women in the workplace", in collaboration with UN Women’s National Committee for France, for human resources managers and employees in Carrefour's 231 hypermarkets and more than 1,000 Market supermarkets. Carrefour also expressed the intention to direct victims of violence to appropriate bodies in the charity and public sectors for support and advice. Since 2012, Carrefour has offered an active listening and psychological support service, “Psya", which is free, anonymous and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Carrefour has also undertaken awareness-raising and prevention campaigns in Spain, Italy, Romania and Argentina, and 200 store managers and directors have received training to identify violence and provide the victims with support.

PSA Peugeot Citroën, company agreement on domestic violence[5]

A 2009 company agreement with PSA Peugeot Citroën, the second-largest car manufacturer in Europe, was one of the first in France to address the issue of domestic violence in the form of a protocol. Following an agreement, in each PSA site undertakes different actions to meet this objective, including awareness raising initiatives such as distribution of flyers on self-diagnosis (Cleff Le Divellec, 2017, p.15). The PSA Vesoul arranged with the Information Centre on Women’s Rights and Families (CIDFF) the provision of training for 150 managers (Cleff Le Divellec, 2017).

European trade union project “Safe at Home, Safe at Work: Trade unions’ strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate workplace harassment and violence against women” (ETUC, 2017b; Pillinger, 2017)

ETUC’s “Safe at Home, Safe at Work” report documented eleven detailed country case studies showing how unions are implementing workplace policies on domestic violence and collected over 40 examples of such collective agreements and policies on domestic violence. The report presents ten things that unions can do to address gender-based harassment and violence:

“1. Prioritise sectoral and company-based social dialogue between unions and employers, jointly agreeing workplace policies, procedures and awareness raising actions amongst managers and workers.

2. Ensure that women are in senior negotiating positions, as this has been shown to be critical to getting issues of gender-based violence and harassment onto bargaining agendas, particularly in male-dominated sectors.

3. Produce guidance and model workplace policies, and train workplace representatives to negotiate agreements and policies to tackle violence and sexual harassment at work, third party violence, and the prevention of domestic violence at work.

4. Ensure that safety and health and wellbeing at work initiatives include a strong gender-based focus on the causes of and solutions to harassment and violence against women at work, and that they take into account gender inequalities and discrimination.

5. Give information and support to workers experiencing gender-based violence and harassment and domestic violence.

6. Work in partnership with NGOs and specialist violence against women organisations, for example in carrying out campaigns and union surveys to raise awareness about the extent and nature of gender-based violence at work.

7. Encourage women and men in leadership, negotiating and decision-making positions to raise public awareness and act as champions for a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women.

8. Highlight the economic and social case for tackling violence at work, including the business arguments such as improving workplace relations, enhancing wellbeing at work, retaining workers, reducing absence from work, and increasing motivation and productivity.

9. Lobby for the inclusion of effective measures to address gender-based violence at work and domestic violence at work in governments’ national action plans on violence against women, as well as in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention and the proposed ILO instrument on violence against women and men in the world of work.

10. Implement measures to include and address gender-based violence and harassment in European sectoral social dialogue agreements and joint statements.”[6]

CEASE Project – European company network on preventing domestic violence[7]

CEASE is a European network of companies committed to ending gender-based violence. Established in 2018, and currently formed by 15 companies, it aims to support companies in implementing domestic violence policies and programmes and to facilitate knowledge-sharing amongst them. CEASE developed an interactive European Impact Map that lists the services that provide support to victims.[8]

Several members of the network have already pioneered innovative work. The Kerring Foundation has trained 1,200 workers to date in France, Italy, UK and the US and has partnered with women’s organizations in France, Italy, UK, China, Lebanon and the US to provide support to workers experiencing domestic violence.

Vodafone New Zealand Company Policy on Family Violence at work[9]

Vodafone NZ’s company policy on family violence at work was introduced following a “business giving network” that it chaired. The policy provides ten days leave for victims of domestic violence which can be extended if necessary, and support and access to counselling is provided by NGOs partners. The company helps perpetrators seek support and allows unpaid leave to attend counselling. An employee-led Manaaki Support network provides confidential guidance, practical supports and information are provided to keep employees safe at work, such as changing phone, email address or payroll details. The policy was drawn up with help from two NGOs working with victims of domestic violence. Vodafone NZ has collaborated with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission to create support material for other businesses who want to implement a policy, which in turn contributed to the introduction of legislation in 2018 to provide the right to ten days leave.

Combating violence against women in Peru (ComVoMujer)[10]

Companies in Peru have participated in the project “Combating violence against women in Latin America” (known as ComVoMujer in Spanish). ComVoMujer has provided companies in the private sector with guidance on a range of options that they can tailor, including capacity-building, awareness-raising for workers or clients and project development within the community. The focus of the project was on the impact of domestic violence on companies and to promote company awareness and innovative responses. ComVoMujer published a handbook to support company training on violence against women, including a module addressed to men. A network of trainers was created to disseminate the training.

The project has worked with 100 companies and has collaborated with a further 400 companies to raise awareness about domestic violence and its impact on companies. It has involved a multi-sectoral partnership between the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, civil society and companies in Peru. The MIMP launched the certification “Safe enterprise without violence and discrimination against women” to encourage businesses to implement preventive measures.

One example led by water companies in Peru was the initiative “Turn off the tap against violence against women”, with information about domestic violence for customers and employees of water companies. A total of 37 companies signed up to the project, reaching more than 3 million households. A further example, from Laboratorios Bagó, a pharmaceutical company, raised awareness amongst young women through one of their products designed to alleviate menstrual pain. The company wanted to raise awareness after one of its employees was murdered by her partner. A video has been created in which companies share their experiences when participating in the ComVoMujer program, which was a motivating factor for other companies.

Northern Ireland, Belfast Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership

A good practice inter-agency model from Northern Ireland recognizes the value of an integrated approach of collaboration between agencies to prevent domestic violence. The inter-agency Belfast Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership has brought stakeholders together and has produced information, resources and a model workplace policy on domestic violence and abuse (Belfast Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership, 2016). The partners come from social services, the police, probation, women’s aid, voluntary and community organizations, men’s projects and trade unions, amongst others. The model policy includes guidance for all agencies, including how trade unions, line managers and colleagues can play a role in supporting staff experiencing domestic violence and abuse.



[1] In Spain, this is the case under the 2004 Act on the protection to women victims of domestic violence, which encompasses a wide range of specific workplace measures, including paid leave and flexible working hours.

[2] For further information about this case study and other innovative examples of how companies and unions have implemented workplace policies see UN Women Australia report: https://unwomen.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Taking_the_First_Step_UNWNCA_Report.pdf

[3] For further information see the Mount Sinai Hospital ‘Guide to Domestic Violence Policy’: http://www.mountsinai.on.ca/about_us/policies/MSH%20Guide%20to%20Domestic%20Violence%20Policy.pdf/view

[4] See also: Convenio Colectivo de Grupo HC Energía, available at: https://www.csi-asturies.org/web_antigua/legislacion/convenio_colectivo_hc.pdf 

[5] These and other examples can be found at ETUC (2017) Safe at Home, Safe at Work, France, national case study report (Brussels, ETUC).

[7] Information provided in an interview by Nadège LHaraig and Auriane Goullard at the CEASE project. For further information see: https://cease-project.eu/

[8] The interactive map can be found at: https://cease-project.eu/impact-map/

[9] For further information see: https://news.vodafone.co.nz/article/vodafone-announces-family-violence-policy-support-team and https://www.hrc.co.nz/news/employers-offered-family-violence-model-policy/

[10] The project has involved companies in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador For further information about the ComVoMeujer project (in Spanish) see: http://info.comvomujer.org.pe/catalogocomvo/productoscatalogos2016/4_Factsheet%20ComvoMujer%204-2016_PE%20_FINAL%20(2).pdf. For further information in English: https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/12205.html

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