• Matthew Brennan

Domestic Abuse Victims Policy

Dunstable Town Councillors are perfectly OK with firing Domestic Abuse Victims that fail to meet performance requirements.

At a meeting of Finance and General Purposes committee on 20/06/2022, I sat at a table of 5 Conservative Councillors, two Independent Councillors and two Labour Councillors (myself included) and I called into question a new proposed Domestic Abuse Policy to be adopted by Dunstable Town Council that may result in actively endangering the employees it purports to help.

This new policy states the Council’s responsibilities as an employer and how it encourages, supports, and enables support for employees, with regards to Domestic Abuse.

It is a very well written policy that outlines the many ways which the Council will support employees that have been recognised as victims of Domestic Abuse. The only problem is it also unnecessarily outlines how we fire these victims.

The Section of the policy I called into question this evening relates to the Impact of Domestic Abuse on the employee’s performance. The new policy states that “Where domestic abuse has been reported, line managers will treat poor performance, unplanned absences and temporary poor timekeeping sympathetically.” All good so far, no complaint from me. Then the policy takes a turn. It then states that the employee will be made aware of the concerns about performance…

The policy continues:

“The manager should agree reasonable targets with the employee and provide any necessary support. If the poor performance continues and the employee does not appear to be able to improve their performance at work notwithstanding the support given, further discussions will be held with the employee”

Finally, the policy drives the point home:

“Although the use of formal procedures e.g. disciplinary or capability is not prohibited, this should be a last resort.”

I called this point into question with my fellow councillors, none of which supported my worries. That if a confirmed domestic abuse victim is struggling so much that their performance at the council falls behind a target constructed by their line manager that they can face disciplinary procedures. The result of which is unemployment.

A recent study by Warwick Economics and CAGE has found that unemployment substantially increases domestic violence. Professor Sonia Bhalotra of Warwick Economics stated: “our evidence suggests that job loss triggers two mechanisms – income loss, and an increase in potential time at home. The loss of income creates stress within the household, while more time at home increases exposure to the risk of domestic violence.”

Unfortunately, many of the Councillors tonight were more than happy to subject one of their employees to increased domestic violence. No-one was interested in changing this part of the policy. They actively wanted to keep the option to sack a domestic abuse victim!

The upside of the policy accepted by council is that it will provide significant help to anyone who comes forward as a victim of domestic abuse. It is just a shame that it must come with such a heavy price, a reminder that even the documents that are designed to be beneficial to the employee are more likely geared towards the employer and a Sword of Damocles over the head of any victim that does come forward.

Recent Posts

See All