Gender-based violence: NHSScotland PIN policy

This Partnership Information Network (PIN) policy aims to support a reduction in the risk to staff of gender-based violence and to ensure that appropriate action is taken where incidents of gender-based violence occur or where allegations are raised.

2 Gender-Based Violence

2.1 What is Gender-Based Violence?

2.1.1 Gender-Based Violence is a major public health issue which cuts across the whole of society. It is also a fundamental violation of human rights.

2.1.2 Gender-Based Violence is an umbrella term that encompasses a spectrum of abuse experienced mostly by women and perpetrated mainly by men including: domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, stalking, commercial sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation ( FGM), forced marriage and so-called 'honour' crimes.

2.1.3 Although primarily experienced by women, the policy recognises that men too can experience abuse. For example:

  • Of 53,681 domestic abuse incidents reported to Scottish police in 2008/09, 84% of victims were female. (Statistical Bulletin 2008/9);
  • In 2006, a study found that domestic abuse within same sex relationships could be as high as 1 in 3. (Donovan, Hester, Holmes & McCarry);
  • 21% of girls and 11% of boys have experienced childhood sexual abuse. (Cawson et al, 2000);
  • 37% of aggravated stalking against women was by a partner or ex partner and 8% was against men. (Walby & Allen, 2000); and
  • In 2009, the UK Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1682 cases of forced marriage, 86% of these were women and 14% men. (Forced Marriage Unit).

Full references and further information on the prevalence and impact of abuse on women and men are included in the attached Appendix 1.

2.2 Why is a policy needed?

2.2.1 Given its prevalence within the wider population, and the size of the workforce in NHSScotland, it is inevitable that a significant number of NHS employees will have experience of some form of abuse, past or current. It is further recognised that a number will be perpetrators.

The focus on improving the NHS response to Gender-Based Violence, particularly the implementation of routine enquiry of abuse in key services, may result in a greater number of staff disclosing their own experiences of abuse.

2.2.2 Given the disproportionate impact on women and girls, Gender-Based Violence is one of the most sensitive indicators of gender inequality. As such, implementation of this policy will assist NHSScotland Boards to meet their legislative obligations to promote gender equality under the Equality Act 20108.

As well as being rooted in gender inequality, Gender-Based Violence cuts across boundaries of ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief. The policy will therefore also contribute to Boards' legal requirements in relation to these other aspects of the Equality Act.

2.2.3 Whether it takes place within or outside of the workplace, the employment implications for employees who experience abuse are significant. It can have a detrimental impact on health and well-being, which may affect attendance, performance and productivity.

2.2.4 Allegations of abuse made against employees could have potential implications for their employment role and could breach organisational and professional codes of conduct.

2.2.5 The creation of a specific policy on Gender-Based Violence demonstrates the commitment of NHSScotland Boards to improving the safety and welfare of all staff affected by abuse. Having an explicit policy enables organisations to:

  • Raise awareness of GBV as a serious health and social issue, highlighting its hidden nature and the impact on those affected by it;
  • Send a positive message to employees with experience of abuse that they will be listened to and supported;
  • Project a clear signal that the actions of employees who perpetrate abuse, within or outside the workplace, is unacceptable;
  • Provide a framework for addressing the behaviour of employees who may be perpetrators of abuse and who may pose a risk to other employees or patients within the context of their work;
  • Clarify the scope for managers to interpret and apply provisions within existing NHS policies when responding to Gender-Based Violence;
  • Create a potential cost benefit for NHSScotland, by contributing to the reduction of absence related costs and increased productivity; and
  • Improve their reputation by formally recognising and responding to Gender-Based Violence as a serious workplace issue.

2.2.6 The policy includes guidance for managers to assist them to implement its aims.

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