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News / Council reaffirms zero tolerance approach to violence against women in new policy

SHETLAND Islands Council has approved a new policy that sets out how to respond to and support staff who experience or perpetrate violence against women.

Violence Against Women – a Policy to Support Employees was approved by councillors at the policy and resources committee on Monday.

The policy is said to be an “essential element of the council’s commitment to addressing gender inequality”.

“Through the development of the Violence Against Women – a Policy to Support Employees, along with procedure, guidance and training the council recognises that violence against women affects all aspects of women’s lives, and the workplace is no exception,” a report to councillors said.

“Violence significantly impacts on women’s day to day lives; it occurs in and outside of the workplace and has a drastic impact on women’s experiences at work. It is critical that, as an employer, we understand the impact of gender-based violence on women, so that we are better able to support women to stay in work, and to access the support and services they may need.”

Councillors were told that the SIC already provides support for employees through supportive line management and access to free counselling support – with the new policy formalising this support specifically in relation to staff experiencing violence against women.

The policy includes background information on areas such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment, stalking and misogynistic workplace behaviours.

It adds that it is “not intended to diminish men’s experience of violence or domestic abuse”.

“While men may be victims of violence and abuse, a gendered-analysis helps to make sense of the scale and impact of violence against women,” the policy adds.

“Statistics show that women are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment, rape and sexual violence, domestic abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of violence against women.”

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It was incidentally approved on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In addition, the council has also updated its existing equality and diversity policy in relation to specific elements of workplace culture.

It comes after Shetland Islands Council signed up to the Equally Safe at Work pilot project, which is an accreditation programme which enables employers to better support staff who have experienced gender-based violence.

North mainland councillor Emma Macdonald described the new policies and pilot project as a “really positive step”.

“These are really vital policies and I really welcome them,” she said.

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