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Making a commitment to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls

This International Women’s Day, Principle One is focusing on what we can do as an employer to help tackle Violence Against Women and Girls. Since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, many employees across the UK have spent more time working at home and, unfortunately, for some this has increased the risk or incidence of domestic abuse, with calls to helplines increasing by 61% since the first lockdown[i]. With the blurring of the boundaries between work and home life, employers and colleagues can be well placed to help identify and tackle abuse, and have a duty of care to do so.

As a company with a workforce that is around 50% female, we have made it a priority to ensure that we are equipped to ensure we do all that we can to support any colleague experiencing intimidation, harassment or abuse. As a result, we have chosen to launch two new partnerships, one with the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) and another with White Ribbon.

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is an umbrella term used to cover a wide range of abuse types that affect women and girls more than men and boys, such as domestic homicide, domestic abuse, sexual assault and harassment in work and public life. These crimes can have a profound impact on victims and their loved ones as well as on wider society. 2.1 million[ii] adults experience domestic abuse every year – two thirds of whom are women. The 2021 Domestic Abuse Act was introduced to raise awareness of this fact and offer better protection for victims and their families, for the first time providing a statutory definition of domestic abuse which acknowledges that it is not just physical, but can cover broader types of harassment and intimidation.

In the year ending March 2023 it is estimated that 1.4 million women and 751,000 men in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse[iii], whilst in 2023 13% of women and 7% of men experienced at least one form of harassment[iv]. In the year ending March 2023, around 82% of female homicide victims in England and Wales were killed in a domestic setting, compared to 40% of male victims.

So as an employer, what can we do to change this narrative? First and foremost, we want to ensure that Principle One is a safe, supportive space for anybody who is experiencing abuse, no matter what their gender. A critical part of doing so is to raise awareness and foster conversations that may help stop or even prevent abuse – being able to identify it in the workplace, or knowing how to recognise signs of abuse could lead to critical interventions from colleagues.

Business analyst Gabbie Mahal is a former police officer and has played a key role in Principle One’s response to VAWG. Here she reflects on her experience of responding to domestic abuse as a detective: “It is imperative to understand domestic abuse, which can take a wide range of forms and is often hidden. The impact is devastating for victims but also for their families – it destroys a person’s confidence, dignity and outlook on life. It takes a huge amount of bravery for a victim to break free from domestic abuse, and it is often a very overwhelming experience. Since the workplace can be a victim’s only respite from domestic abuse, having a supportive system in place for anybody experiencing it is incredibly important. We want every Principle One employee to know that they will be heard, taken seriously and supported if they ask for help.”

To help shape our response to VAWG and follow best practice, we have made a commitment to work with two charities: The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) and White Ribbon.

EIDA is a free-to-join members’ network of employers which supports around 1500 large and small businesses to take effective action on domestic abuse. All members sign up to the Membership Charter, which sets out mutual commitments that will enable better support for employees affected by domestic abuse:

In parallel, White Ribbon is focused on engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls and change the attitudes that contribute to gender inequality and men’s violence against women. Its focus is creating a community of allies, centred around White Ribbon Ambassadors - men who commit to engage with other men and boys to raise awareness and call out abusive and sexist behaviour among their friends, colleagues and communities. They are supported by White Ribbon Champions, who ensure that women’s voices are heard.

White Ribbon asks that any organisation which partners with them puts forward an Ambassador who will commit to lead the initiative. Chief Operating Officer Ben Sadler was delighted to take on this role on behalf of Principle One. “At Principle One, we have worked hard to create an inclusive workplace and a safe supportive environment, where all voices can be heard and all staff are respected. Getting involved with White Ribbon has shown that there is so much more than we can do as an Employer. It’s not just about tackling physical violence, which is rare in the workplace, but tackling the attitudes and behaviours behind what is often dismissed as banter. This is where we can take greater responsibility to tackle some of the root causes of violence against women and girls and drive a positive culture change.“

Principle One is using guidance from EIDA and White Ribbon to shape our response to VAWG. In particular, we have committed to promoting EIDA’s ‘Four Rs’ framework (Recognise, Respond, Refer and Record) to ensure that we have a clearly established set of guidelines to adopt their advice on how we can support our staff:

We are sharing advice at our company-wide meetings around how employees can recognise and respond to abuse, and we are in the process of creating training to ensure that all staff members are fully briefed on how to recognise abuse and understand what action they can consider taking. We believe that having this conversation is important simply for raising awareness and fostering a culture where anybody experiencing abuse or who suspects it may be taking place feels safe to come forward.

We are also in the process of drafting processes and clear routes for staff to disclose abuse, and we will establish key points of contact within the company alongside for any employee who needs confidential support. We have created a set of VAWG scenarios which are informing how our policies and processes evolve, and which we will use as the foundation for further staff training. We are acutely aware that each situation will be unique and there will be no standard approach, and therefore the most important thing to us is firstly that employees feel safe to disclose abuse, and secondly that we respond to the situation appropriately and proportionately. We very much expect to learn and refine our approach as we go.

While we are at the beginning of our journey to tackle VAWG, we are committed to raising awareness of our responsibility as employers to lead change and would like to share a call to action with our customers and partners to consider what they can do to support employees who are experiencing abuse and contribute to reducing violence against women and girls.

For further information on how to get started, check out and and join the conversation.



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