Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

UK firms urged to act on domestic abuse as female murder cases rise

Women hold placards as they listen to a speaker at an event to mark the anniversary of the brutal gang rape of a student on a bus in Delhi, outside the Indian High Commission in central London, December 16, 2013. The rape and assault lead to the death of the victim and to widespread protests against violence towards women. REUTERS/Andrew Winning  (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY ANNIVERSARY) - GM1E9CG1H2J01

Campaigners advocating an end to violence against women. Image: REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Sonia Elks
Journalist, Reuters
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Education, Gender and Work

Companies were urged on Friday to offer a lifeline to workers suffering from domestic abuse after official data showed the number of women murdered in England and Wales rose by 10% in a year to a 13-year high.

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The number of female murder or manslaughter victims rose to 241 in the 12 months to March 2019, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics.

About 40% of adult victims, or 80 women, were killed by a current or former partner, which was up from 63 in the previous year.

The data should act as a call for firms to put in protections for vulnerable workers suffering domestic abuse whose ability to work could be impacted by the violence they faced, said women's charities and an employers' network.

"Domestic abuse can have fatal consequences," said Andrea Simon from End Violence Against Women coalition group.

"Employers have an important role and should recognise the costs of domestic abuse ... A workplace is likely to be somewhere a women comes on their own, so it's an important opportunity for interventions to be offered."

Almost of a quarter of women have suffered some form of partner abuse - including threats, physical abuse, sexual assault or stalking - since they were aged 16, according to data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Victims often struggle to tell friends and family what is happening because they are ashamed or have been deliberately isolated by their partner, according to the charity Women's Aid.

The workplace can offer a key opportunity for them to disclose abuse and get support while they are away from their partner, said the non-profit network The Employers' Initiative on Domestic Abuse.

"It's terribly important that employers recognise the one place for many abuse victims where they feel safe is at work because it often allows them to get out of the abusive situation for some hours a day," said chairwoman Elizabeth Filkin.

The network encourages firms to offer to train staff how to deal with abuse disclosures and refer victims for professional help, as well as working with any abusers who are on their staff to help them manage anger and change their ways.

Having a supportive workplace can offer significant support to women who often report that they fear losing their job while struggling to cope with domestic abuse, said Lucy Hadley, campaigns and policy manager at Women's Aid.

She added that some countries including New Zealand and the Philippines offer paid leave for survivors, and called on the British government to follow suit.

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