Provision that may be made by notices

Domestic Abuse Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 10 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office), Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding) 10:45, 10 Mehefin 2020

I beg to move amendment 56, in clause 20, page 13, line 8, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those giving Domestic Abuse Protection notices have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Ceidwadwyr, Wellingborough

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 57, in clause 20, page 13, line 10, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those giving Domestic Abuse Protection notices have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 58, in clause 20, page 13, line 11, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those giving Domestic Abuse Protection notices have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 59, in clause 21, page 13, line 29, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those giving Domestic Abuse Protection notices have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 60, in clause 21, page 13, line 32, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those giving Domestic Abuse Protection notices have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 61, in clause 32, page 20, line 24, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those giving Domestic Abuse Protection Orders have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 62, in clause 32, page 20, line 26, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those making Domestic Abuse Protection Orders have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 63, in clause 32, page 20, line 27, after “lives”, insert “or works.”

This amendment would ensure that those making Domestic Abuse Protection Orders have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 64, in clause 32, page 20, line 28, after “person from”, insert “part of”

This amendment would ensure that those making Domestic Abuse Protection Orders have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 65, in clause 32, page 20, line 28, after “the”, insert “workplace or”

This amendment would ensure that those serving Domestic Abuse Protection Orders have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Amendment 66, in clause 33, page 20, line 43, after “establishment”, add “except in a case where the person against whom the order is made works in the same premises as the person for whose protection the order is made;”

This amendment would ensure that those making Domestic Abuse Protection Orders have the discretion to consider the workplace as well as the home.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office), Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)

We got here quickly—we are a bit quicker today, aren’t we? I realise that is my responsibility, so maybe we will not be quick anymore. The amendments would expand the DAPO to cover the workplace. In 2016, four women were murdered in their workplaces by men.

In one high-profile case, Andrew Burke cut the throat of his ex-partner’s new girlfriend, Cassie Hayes, at the Southport branch of Tui. The 28-year-old was killed by her lover’s ex-partner at her agency branch in what the judge called a

“cold-blooded execution in public”.

Burke slit Cassie’s throat at the travel shop in front of horrified customers, including families with young children. A court heard how events turned toxic in the lead-up to the murder, after the killer realised that Cassie had begun a relationship with his ex. In 2017, Burke admitted to sending malicious communications and was fined and warned to keep away from Cassie after threatening to kill her. It is particularly poignant for any of us here who have had the exact same thing happen. The perpetrator was already awaiting sentencing for harassing the mother of his child, and was being investigated for further harassing Cassie.

Rachel Williams, about whom I spoke yesterday in the context of the suicide of her son Jack, suffered much of her abuse in the workplace. Rachel’s employer recounted to a newspaper the behaviour of the perpetrator—Rachel’s husband, Darren Williams—in the workplace:

“First, her employer recalled, Williams banned Rachel from working with male colleagues and cutting the hair of any man—or even lesbian women.

When they employed a young man, the entire salon had to enact the charade that he was gay.

Rachel’s boss recalled: ‘Darren’s demeanour was intimidating and we were all afraid of him “kicking off.” He would make surprise visits to the salon and check our appointment book to try to catch her cutting men’s hair.’

‘I remember one particular day when Rachel was the only stylist available to cut a gent’s hair and I had to order all my trainees to circle around her and the client to block any view from the street while she cut his hair. The fear of her getting caught was tangible and the whole salon was on pins.’”

Some 47.3% of respondents to a TUC survey said that their partner physically turned up at their workplace, while 43.6% said that their partner stalked them outside their workplace. Three quarters of women who experience domestic violence will also be targeted at work. Clearly there is a problem with the protection of victims in their places of work. I feel as though the Government were prepared for this speech, because I am very pleased to hear of a review—we all know how much I love a review—into what is needed in workplaces, although I think the issue still stands with regard to the DAPO.

I have seen time and again, working both in domestic abuse services and, I am afraid to say, as an employer, how women can be targeted. Although it did not always mean that the perpetrator would turn up, women would be threatened with the idea that the perpetrator would come and make a scene at their workplace. Imagine being in an abusive relationship—even someone in our job or someone who works for us—and to be kept being told, “I will come and make a scene at your work.” We would do almost anything. It is one of the worst controls that I can imagine—I say that as someone who is so driven by my work—someone turning up at work to humiliate me, causing a scene. I remember one case of a victim whose perpetrator rang her workplace switchboard hundreds of times a day, but she was disciplined for it.

I also recall the case of a teaching assistant who called the police many times about the abuse she suffered at home, including violence and sexual abuse. As in many cases, unfortunately, no convictions were ever secured, for one reason or another. However, were this case to occur now, after this Bill, with which we are all trying to improve the situation, I can very much foresee that we might have got a DAPO—whether through the family courts, the police, the victim or, potentially, a third party, because in that case the woman had an older teenage daughter who was fiercely fighting for her mother.

One day at work, that victim was told that her perpetrator would be coming as a visiting dignitary to the school where she worked. The school had no idea of the connection or the abuse but, when she expressed concerns, she was asked to take the day off. The tentacles of control are hard for us to beat. When we look at domestic abuse, we see that it is about power and control. In that case, someone who wishes to exert power and control is being given the option—which they always are—of using another model of power and control, which is the hierarchies we have at work, such as fear of the boss, worry about what colleagues will think, or that they will say, “Gosh, she is always causing trouble”, or, “She’s whinging again.” It happens, because that is human nature—these things happen—but the two power structures together are a dangerous and heady combination.

In that case, the perpetrator knew that he had the power to go to his ex-partner’s place of work, and that her position as a teaching assistant in that power structure meant that he trumped her even in her workplace. The thought of him delighting in the fact that she would have to take action because of him going about his business makes my blood boil. Perpetrators will use every power option they have, so there is no reason to think that they would not do that in a place of work.

We do not have anywhere near robust enough policies and procedures to deal with workplace domestic abuse, and it is barely seen as a side issue by most. Some really notable examples of good employers, such as Lloyds bank, Vodafone and the Welsh Government, have all sought to take the issue and to go above and beyond with it. They offer paid leave, instances of support and proper policies, for example on what to do if there is a perpetrator and a victim at the workplace.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Llafur, Pontypridd

My hon. Friend mentioned the Welsh Government and yesterday we discussed the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015, which puts a statutory duty on organisations in Wales to provide training. Some of our local authorities have extended that duty to local employers as well. That is about engagement with local businesses and employers to make their staff aware, so that they can identify the signs, picking up on domestic abuse to help their employees. Some of our local authorities have also introduced paid leave, following what has been done in Scotland. We would definitely look to that as a blanket measure across the UK.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office), Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)

When the Minister stands up, I am sure that she will urge us all to take part in the consultation on the current review and say that very thing. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is another issue on which this Bill, although it is for England and Wales, is up against some potential differences in Wales—there might be different guidance—and I very much hope that the statutory guidance that comes with the Bill will look at that. The specific issue is that of the DAPO.

I want to talk about how little the issue of violence against women and girls at work is currently considered. As a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, I raised the issue of abuse in the workplace with the Health and Safety Executive as part of our inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. Obviously, we know that there is much crossover in this area. I said—this is like a script; I could act it out, but I am definitely better at being Jess Phillips than I am at being Philip White from the Health and Safety Executive. I said:

“Do you know what caused the most deaths of women at work last year?”

The answer, of course, is violence against women and girls. Philip White said, “I don’t know.” That is from the Health and Safety Executive. I asked:

“Would you consider that deaths of women at work came under Health and Safety Executive legislation?”

This is the best answer I have ever received in Parliament; it has stayed with me and will stay with me forever. He said:

“If they were killed by a reversing vehicle or an exposure to gas—”.

I asked:

“So when their safety is not their interpersonal safety, it would come under the Health and Safety Executive?”

The then Chair of that Committee, Mrs Miller, tried to push the issue, asking:

“Surely a death at work would come under you?”

We talked through different incidents of violence at work that would fall under the Health and Safety Executive. As hon. Members might imagine, it did not fill me with much hope, so I asked him

“do you think that the Health and Safety Executive has a role in making sure that workplaces have safety practices at work that keep people safe from violence at work?”,

to which the response was a simple yes.

I pushed further, asking

“does the Health and Safety Executive have any specific guidance for violence against women and girls at work?”

Philip White answered:

“We don’t have any specific advice regarding violence against women and girls at work.”

I mean, we are only 52% of the population. He said that there was some evidence on the website and that HSE was part of

“a European piece of guidance that has been developed”,

which has nothing to do with violence against women and girls. I pushed him further, saying:

“Three women were murdered at work last year due to violence against women and girls, so it might be worth looking into.”

While the amendments we are proposing would not improve the role of the Health and Safety Executive, my encounter with it points to the current lack of proper understanding about the effect of interpersonal violence and abuse in people’s workplaces. It is stark. From my scrutiny of the Health and Safety Executive, I was left with the firm feeling that an employer had a role to protect me as a woman if I was hit by a van, but not if I was hit by a man. The extension of the DAPO to include protections based on people’s workplaces would have not only a material effect by literally protecting people at work, but the effect of forcing employers to take on the role of protecting their workforces from this very real problem.

The right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), not normally a union firebrand, herself the originator of this very Bill—[Interruption.] I would not like to speak to what Government Members know of the right hon. Lady’s union firebrandery, but she agrees with me, and on Second Reading of this Bill she very clearly spoke of the need for improvements in the workplace and safety in the workplace. In fact, on Second Reading of the sister Bill, the predecessor to this Bill, the right hon. Lady bravely spoke about specific issues of domestic abuse in the workplace when people work in the police force. She has been a constant champion of this particular issue, and she found many bedfellows on Second Reading of this Bill in people I would definitely describe as union firebrands.

The Bill rightly and nobly includes economic abuse, and the definition is clear—it would be abusive to perpetrate any behaviour that has “a substantial adverse effect” on a victim’s ability to “acquire…or maintain money”. It is clear that perpetrators will use a victim’s workplace as part of their pattern of control, and we have an opportunity in the Bill to stop that. A victim should be safe in the knowledge that they can attend their workplace without their abuser being able to reach them, and all that my amendments would do is simply add the words “and workplace” where the Bill refers to the provisions of a DAPO.

Currently, DAPOs cover homes, travel from home, travel on the way to work, school or college, regular social venues, extended family homes—Gosh, those were the days, when we could go to extended family homes; it seems like I must have written this briefing note in a different time—or when taking children to school, rightly, or when socialising with friends. Actually, what is currently being covered is remarkable, and it reflects the life of a victim. It reflects their life, but it does not reflect their life at work.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Llafur, Pontypridd 11:00, 10 Mehefin 2020

We need this amendment to the Bill, because nearly a quarter of all people now meet their partners at work. If someone is working with an abusive partner as well as living with them, it makes sense that they will be subjected to domestic abuse while at work. That is another reason why we need this amendment.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office), Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)

I agree, and I will move on to concerns about people working in the same building. It is a very real issue; a quarter of people meet their partner at work—I met my husband in Kings Heath Park when I was 12; it is now many happy years later.

The Bill must not exclude the workplace from victims’ protections, when it is the place where many victims will spend the majority of their time—those of us in this room know that our time at work far outstrips the time we spend anywhere else. I have to say that what is in the Bill with regard to DAPOs really does recognise the idea of a victim’s life and where people are. The only deficit is specifically with regard to workplaces.

For example, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd referred to, where a victim and a perpetrator share a workplace, a DAPO could specify distances and support employers to make the changes to shift patterns, or locations, or the perpetrator’s work space. The amendment would allow victims to keep their job and to continue working, as necessary steps can be taken to ensure that they have no contact with the perpetrator.

I understand that the Government may feel that non-police interventions for protections may be considered more effective. However, my interaction with the Health and Safety Executive speaks to a different reality, and the evidence that victims need protection in the workplace is clear.

Undoubtedly, in some situations there will need to be stronger enforcement to protect victims and to ensure that there is no unnecessary loss of life. In situations where the victim is in serious danger, workplaces should be a place of safety, but this will only be the case if protections are properly enforced by police interventions.

The amendment seeks for judges to include the consideration of the workplace in DAPOs; it does not have to be included. As we have said, one of the good things about DAPOs is that they are flexible, and there is no compulsion on the court or the applicant to request this consideration in addition to protection in the home. The amendment does not necessarily mean that all DAPOs will feature the victim’s workplace; as I have said, it will be at the discretion of the judiciary and those presenting the case.

In cases where perpetrators’ access to their workplace is restricted due to a DAPO, workplaces should be able to support both the perpetrator and victim to ensure that as few limitations as possible are placed on them, but ultimately they must ensure that they operate a zero-tolerance policy towards any kind of harassment.

I am fearful. I have been trying for years to look at different models for how we can support victims of domestic abuse in the workplace. When perpetrators and victims work together, the issue we always run up against is that it gets too difficult because of the potential infringement on the liberties of people in the workplace. But this infringes on the liberties of the victim every single day. We put a man on the moon 50 years ago. It is not too difficult for us to come up with something. Let him Zoom in—that is what we have all been doing. Can he not use Zoom in his new place of work? We have all learned that we do not have to physically be here in order to work—unless the Leader of the House says otherwise, in which case we are entitled to different options. We cannot live in this modern society and think that this is too difficult to address because people work together, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd has said. We are better than that. What is that phrase? “World beating”. Let us be world beating in how we deal with domestic abuse in the workplace.

The amendment would protect victims with life-saving orders and give them the opportunity to be protected at work. It would also present a chance to push forward, as so much of the Bill seeks to do, the idea that workplaces across the country should be safe for vulnerable people. The amendment would force employers to consider their role. By agreeing to this amendment, the Committee would be saying that we believe in the DAPO and that it has a chance to keep people safe. The amendment would also do what we all hope the Bill will do. It would break ground and enable us to say, for the first time, to the bosses and to Philip White of the Health and Safety Executive, “This is the responsibility of all of us.”

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Ceidwadwyr, Ynys Môn

Like every other area of the UK, the constituents of Ynys Môn who suffer domestic abuse are supported by a range of agencies, including police, local authorities and charitable organisations. These organisations provide housing, counselling, education and other services that are vital to keeping safe those escaping domestic abuse. However, as those organisations are all too aware, the issue of domestic abuse goes well beyond the home. Domestic abuse-related stalking and harassment cases make up more than 60% of cases heard at magistrates courts, and more than one third of all reported stalking and harassment takes place at work or at home. It is difficult for those suffering domestic abuse to escape when their abuser follows them.

We all know from evidence provided by organisations such as Refuge that the current injunction system is of limited effectiveness. I therefore welcome the introduction of domestic abuse protection orders, which are a critical part of the Bill. The orders will enable anyone who suffers domestic abuse of any kind to access services knowing that they will be supported and protected beyond the home.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

May I start by saying that I have some sympathy with the aim of the amendments? I recognise that the targeting of the victim’s place of work is often a tactic used by domestic abuse perpetrators to cause distress and exercise coercive control. I have been a strong supporter of the work of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, which aims to help businesses and employers take practical steps to help members of their workforce who suffer from domestic abuse. They can often be very small steps, including allowing time off for a victim to go and seek medical help, but they can also include much larger ideas, such as setting up a bank account so that she can siphon money off to get a little bit of independence from the perpetrator. I am very interested in what employers can do to help their employees who are suffering from domestic abuse. Indeed, the Government are looking into this. Only yesterday, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched a consultation calling for evidence on what more can be done by employers to protect their workforce against domestic abuse. That is very much the direction of travel of this Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn mentioned stalking, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley referred to some terrible cases in which victims have been murdered at their workplace. The story that always comes to my mind is that of Hollie Gazzard, as I lived not very far from Gloucester at the time. That was a horrendous case, and her parents have been quite extraordinary in doing what they have done to try to stop other families suffering in the same way. Our efforts to address the issue of stalking have included the introduction of stalking protection orders, which have a similar format to these orders. We have tried to mirror in DAPOs things like the positive requirements and the criminal breach that are in stalking protection orders, so that there is a protection order for stalking if the facts fit one, but if the facts are better suited to a DAPO, those orders will be available as well—subject to the approval of the House, of course. A huge amount of work is going on to recognise the role that the workplace can play in a victim’s life, and in the attempts of a perpetrator to continue their aggressive or coercive behaviour.

To be clear, clauses 19 to 23 relate to the notices, and these are emergency orders. They are issued not by a court, but by a senior police officer, and the perpetrator has no opportunity to make representations against the imposition of the notice. They apply for a very short period—for 48 hours—so that we can give a bit of space to the victim, and so that the police or others can take steps to make the formal application for an order before a court. These emergency orders are different in nature. They are much more restrictive, because obviously if they are issued by a police officer rather than a court and the perpetrator does not have the chance to make representations, we have to reflect that in the nature of the orders. That is why the list of conditions in clause 20 is exhaustive, and they relate in particular to the occupation of the premises shared with the victim. These were drafted because they mirror the existing provisions in the domestic violence protection notices that are in operation at the moment, but I will consider what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley and others have said about introducing the workplace into these notices.

There is one caveat. The hon. Lady has talked about the notices more generally. I hope, Mr Bone, you will forgive me if I veer into clause 21. The reason we are being very careful and methodical is that clause 21(2) requires the police to consider, before issuing a notice that restricts the perpetrator’s access to the premises, the opinion of other people who work on those premises. In very small workplaces, that may be practicable, but in a workplace of thousands—the House of Commons, a Government Department or elsewhere—there would be significant logistical challenges. We will look into the overall principle, but we flag that as a practical concern about amendments 59 and 60. We also have to bear in mind as we look at these amendments that a victim may not wish to disclose their abuse to their employer.

The purpose of amendments 61 to 65 is to make equivalent amendments to provisions that may be made by a DAPO. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham may deal with those specifically in relation to the clauses on orders. It may be that they are not quite as necessary in orders as they are in notices, given that orders will be considered by a court and there is much more freedom for the court to impose necessary restrictions.

I also note that clause 33(1)(b) provides that, so far as is practicable, the requirements imposed by a DAPO must avoid

“interference with any times at which the person normally works”.

The purpose of amendment 66 is to create an exception in circumstances where the perpetrator works at the same premises as the victim, so that such an interference with the perpetrator’s work would not have to be avoided. I will not go into detail on the further amendments, because I suspect they will come up in the discussion about the orders, but we take on board the points made and will take them away to consider them.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office), Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding) 11:15, 10 Mehefin 2020

I welcome the Minister’s comments. I am happy about the announcement of a Government review, although a number of reviews about workplace violence against women and girls are outstanding after a number of years. That is not the Minister’s responsibility, but the issue of non-disclosure agreements, for example, has been raging, as part of a review and consultation, for three years since the Weinstein affair.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to this particular issue. I do not think that anybody wants victims to be controlled in that way in their workplaces. I recognise the concerns about when people work together and that, in those instances, it will potentially be much easier to have that conversation in court. I am happy to withdraw the amendment on the proviso that the Government have given, having said that they will listen and try to take that on board and see how it could work. I welcome that, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.