Domestic violence invades the workplace: Why ILO C190 is needed in the time of Covid-19


Domestic violence invades the workplace: Why ILO C190 is needed in the time of Covid-19

Across sectors such as care, commerce, post, cleaning, and others, women have been leading the efforts to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. They are often the public face of the frontlines, but what is happening behind closed doors? What happens when home becomes the workplace?

Unfortunately, there has been a spike in domestic abuse—showing the need for local, national, and global solutions.

As millions of people work from home or are staying home because of job loss, a new outbreak is growing — domestic violence.   Prolonged periods of confinement mixed with the stress of unknown financial and health consequences builds domestic tensions.

In China, February saw a threefold increase in cases of domestic violence reported. Since the beginning of the lockdown, countries such as France saw increases of 32% in one week while in the UK, domestic abuse calls are up 25% since the start of the lockdown. In Turkey alone, March saw the deaths of 29 women by men – of those,  21 women were killed in the 20-day period from March 11, when the government advised the country to stay at home to avoid spreading the virus.

Shelters are already struggling to attend to the increasing number of people—mostly women—seeking refuge from abuse. Experts estimate one in four women and one in seven men face physical violence by a partner at some point in their lifetimes, and in a time of crisis, this violence becomes worse.

On a local and national level, unions must step up to help their members by providing information and support to those suffering domestic abuse. Globally, the relevance of tools such as Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 is stronger than ever.

These two international instruments include, for the first time, domestic violence as an element impacting employment and the health and safety of workers.

As established in article 18 of Recommendation 206 in relation to article 10 of Convention 190, appropriate measures to mitigate the impacts of domestic violence in the world of work could include:

“…c) temporary protection against dismissal for victims of domestic violence…

d) the inclusion of domestic violence in workplace risk assessments

e) a referral system to public mitigation measures for domestic violence, where they exist; and

f) awareness-raising about the effects of domestic violence.”

“These are essential tools for unions. They allow us to protect our workers throughout the workplace — whether that workplace is their living room, their office or a shop,” said Veronica Fernandez Mendez, Head of UNI Equal Opportunities. “We need to push – now more than ever – for their ratification and make sure that unions are including them in their collective agreements and negotiations. We urge unions around the world to include strong provisions in their current negotiations with employers to ensure that workers suffering domestic abuse are supported during the lockdown period.

For more information on the work UNI Equal Opportunities is carrying out against violence and workplace violence, please visit our website:


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