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Our accreditation programme will ensure women are Equally Safe at Work

Close the Gap is pleased to announce that we are developing an employer accreditation programme to support the implementation of Equally Safe, Scotland’s violence against women strategy. Equally Safe critically recognises that gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women and addressing labour market inequality is a necessary step in ending violence against women. The employer accreditation programme will be initially piloted in a diversity of local authorities across Scotland, with the view of a larger roll out in the future.

From research conducted by Close the Gap, we found that there are no employer accreditation programmes focusing on gender equality at work and violence against women at work in Scotland or the UK, revealing a clear gap in provision. This programme will enable local authorities to demonstrate good practice and show leadership in addressing violence against women. It also provides the opportunity for employers to make the connection that preventing violence against women starts with advancing gender equality.

Equally Safe recognises that employers have a key role to play in supporting victim-survivors and tackling perpetrators because violence against women is a employment issue whether it occurs inside or outside of the workplace. UN Women and The International Labour Organisation (ILO) have stated that violence against women results in greater economic and social inequalities, disrupts economic empowerment of women and entrenches negative stereotypes against wom

Women comprise 68% of the local government workforce in Scotland, but are concentrated in undervalued, low-paid jobs such as homecare, admin and cleaning, and under-represented in management and senior positions. As a result, women have reduced financial independence, restricted choices in employment and in life, and greater economic inequality which creates a conducive context for violence against women. Financial dependence and poverty are both primary risk factors that diminish women’s resilience and options in the face of violence.

Women also directly experience violence and harassment at work. Research by the TUC found more than half (52%) of women reported having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, with this figure rising to two thirds of women aged 18-24. The research asked women about the different types of sexual harassment they had experiences, which ranged from unwelcome sexual comments to serious sexual assaults. Research by Zero Tolerance found that 70% of respondents had witnessed or experienced sexual harassment. Most women (80%) who experience sexual harassment in the workplace will never report it.

Violence and harassment that happens outside of the workplace, such as at home, can significantly impact how women engage with paid work. An evidence review conducted by Engender found that in the UK and around the globe that experiencing domestic abuse can have a profound impact on whether women work in the formal labour market, the work that they do, and their experience of work. This also has an impact on employers and can lead to reduced productivity, loss of skills and talent, and absenteeism. The economic cost of domestic abuse is estimated to be over £1.9 billion a year, a result of decreased productivity, administrative challenges from unplanned absences, lost wages and sick pay. Taking action and supporting staff is not only a reflection of good practice but also corporate social responsibility.

Employers have a vital role to play in advancing gender equality and challenging violence against women. They can develop employment policies and practice that are sensitive to the needs of victim-survivors, take action to prevent violence against women at work, and take account of women's difference experiences in all aspects of the workplace.

The next steps for Close the Gap on this project are to look at international best practice and work with leading experts and stakeholders in implementing and developing the accreditation programme.

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