Gender-based violence - it’s your business

Charlotte Gage
Partnerships Project Officer | Bristol Zero Tolerance
14th August 2019

You may have heard the shocking statistics: 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and 1 in 6 men will experience the same. Bringing it closer to home 1 in 5 women will experience sexual violence or abuse in Avon and Somerset every week. Nationally two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner. And given the prevalence of gender-based violence it may already have touched your life in some way.

This includes your business and workplace.

Gender-based violence can no longer be considered a private matter as it has a detrimental effect on everyone, not just the victims who directly experience it. Families, communities and our economy are disrupted by it. As well as taking a terrible toll on those who experience it, gender-based violence has a significant cost impact for businesses and the economy. It is estimated that providing public services to victims of gender-based violence, and the lost economic output of women affected, costs the UK £36.7bn annually. The cost to UK businesses is over £1.9 billion annually. Therefore, every workplace is touched by this issue and with over 30 million people working in the UK, the impact of gender-based violence in the workplace is clearly evident resulting in huge direct and indirect costs to businesses. 

Locally it is estimated that domestic violence and abuse costs Bristol over £41 million per year, a statistic that does not illustrate the immeasurable psychological impact on its victims/survivors. Gender-based violence impacts the workplace in multiple ways. This can be direct and may threaten workers’ safety, or there can be secondary effects and disruptions which also effect the workplace. Gender-based violence leads to measureable time taken off work and lost jobs, as well as to less easily measureable lost productivity on the job. The lost economic output has wider ramifications for the economy and society, since all would benefit from a high productivity, high output economy. 

The Corporate Alliance  recognizes that 75% of people enduring violence are targeted at their workplace, perhaps through social media, site visits or phone calls. As such, it is imperative that employees and employers are equipped with knowledge of the signs that indicate that a fellow colleague is a victim or perpetrator. Studies have found that an estimated 74% of domestic violence survivors were harassed by their partner while at work, while 21% of perpetrators contacted their partners from work to threaten them, and 29% contacted partners to scare or intimidate them. Workplace surveys have demonstrated that Human Resources Directors increasingly believe that addressing the effects of gender-based violence in the workplace is essential. This issue has also ben taken up by Business in the Community who produced a Domestic Abuse Toolkit in 2018. 

What can businesses do?

Whilst gender-based violence has the potential to affect us all, fortunately we can also all play an active part in its eradication. Many employers realize that the cost of gender-based violence, whether it occurs within the workplace or outside of it, makes this a workplace issue that cannot be ignored. Proactive strategies will facilitate the safety of all employees while at work, can assist employees who are coping with abuse in safely retaining employment, and should reduce the economic losses associated with employees’ experience of gender-based violence. Comprehensive policies, training and management which recognize the complexity of these issues can mitigate the workplace effects of abuse and violence.

Preventing gender-based violence is not only the right thing to do but is also the financially prudent thing to do. Businesses are affected by the consequences of gender-based violence and so must respond to issues of abuse in their workplace.

This is where Bristol Zero Tolerance finds its motivation, as we believe there is nothing permanent or inherent about the existence of gender-based violence within the private or public sphere.

What is Bristol Zero Tolerance?

Since 2015 the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative has worked tirelessly towards creating a city free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. Bristol is the first city in England to take on this challenge and we hope that it will inspire other cities to implement similar initiatives.

We work with Bristol-based businesses and their employees towards the vision of Bristol becoming a city with a Zero Tolerance approach to gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. 

There are many organizations and individuals that share our belief that gendered harassment, abuse and exploitation in the workplace and beyond must be eliminated. From universities to multinational corporations, over 100 organisations in Bristol have expressed their solidarity by signing our Zero Tolerance pledge  and we are working with them towards creating a Zero Tolerance City.

Once an organization signs the pledge, Bristol Zero Tolerance work with them to develop a tailored action plan and access training to deepen an understanding of domestic abuse and how it might impact your workplace as well as support those facing abuse. Signing up your business to Bristol Zero Tolerance is an excellent way to initiate a conversation and make your company aware of gender-based violence, encouraging a workplace where employees feel safe and are educated and aware of what help can be sought.

Bristol Zero Tolerance also:

  • Raises awareness of gender-based violence, helping people to intervene when witnessing unacceptable behaviours and seek appropriate support 
  • Acts as a voice for gender-based violence services in the city and feeds into local strategies to ensure survivors’ voices are included
  • Works with businesses and venues that open in the evening, to enable them to tackle violence and abuse in public spaces.

And we are making a difference. For example, street harassment has been re-classified as a hate crime, thanks to our campaigning, giving women more confidence to report these crimes. But so much more needs to be done.

We are running a Summer Fundraising Appeal  for Bristol Zero Tolerance to allow us to continue the initiative. There’s never been a greater need for this vital work and in order to go on working with local businesses, we need your help. Due to a lack of funding, this unique, leading initiative is in imminent danger of closing. We can’t let this happen.

We are asking local businesses to support our Summer Fundraising Appeal to secure the future of this valuable initiative in the city and eliminate all gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.

We initially need £5,000 by September 30th 2019 to continue the project. Any donation to the appeal could make all the difference. 

Please see our crowdfunding page for more information and how to donate and share -

If you would like to discuss other ways that your business or workplace may be able to support us we would also love to hear from you.

All donations will help us put our plans for 2019 and beyond into action, and keep this essential work going. Your support will enable Bristol Zero Tolerance to continue to work with businesses across the city to:

  • Develop actions to prevent harassment and abuse in the workplace
  • Facilitate outreach to venues in the city to address sexual assault and harassment in the night time economy
  • Provide high-quality training workshops for workplaces in Bristol. Staff are taught how to identify harassment and abuse, how to prevent it and how to manage it. 

You can support the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative as an individual or business. You can also sign your organisation or business up to the pledge and create actions for your employees and customers or service users. 

In order to eradicate gender-based violence, we need to have a shared understanding, approach and commitment. Together, we can put a stop to gender-based violence and abuse in Bristol and make our city a place where everyone can feel safe and empowered in their work and life.

Do you want to join the conversation?

Sign up here
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