ITF violence free workplaces 4 women


Domestic violence at work

ILO Violence and Harassment Convention and the COVID-19 crisis

C190 – Violence and Harassment Convention that promises a world of work that is free of violence and harassment came into existence during the ILO centenary year, on June 21st 2019.

This Convention was won when we did not know that we would be living through COVID 19 – a health and economic crisis that is severely impacting our world of work.   The Pandemic has intensified the already existing discrimination and violence in the world of work. The marginalised, minority and other vulnerable groups including informal and migrant workers are facing disproportionate impacts of the virus, making this inclusive Convention a crucial instrument to protect workers rights.

ILO Convention 190 addresses violence and harassment including gender-based violence in the world of work for all workers.

Convention 190 is an instrument to protect and promote rights of all workers against violence and harassment including gender based violence, during this crisis and beyond.

The convention 190 applies to all sectors, whether private or public, both in the formal and informal economy, and whether in urban or rural areas. (Article 2)

Having said that, it’s important to note that women workers – who are over-represented in the informal economy, precarious work, and in gender-segregated roles, especially in male-dominated sectors like transport – are facing specific and additional impacts of the pandemic. They are often working in the frontline in customer-facing roles like ticket sellers, cabin crew, cleaners, conductors and airport workers with increased vulnerability to violence, health and economic impacts during the Pandemic. 

Violence and harassment in the world of work 

There has been a global surge in domestic violence incidents and reports. One of the reasons being the overnight change of physical workplace as many countries are/have been in complete lockdown, leaving many survivors isolated in their homes with their abuser.  

Addressing the cause of the dramatic increase in domestic violence during the pandemic, Barb Macquarie from the DV@Work network states that  ‘Isolation is already an established tactic of domestic violence abusers even outside of a pandemic context’

According to a recent national study led by transport unions in India, in which 15,561 people shared their personal experiences of domestic violence, a response that resonated throughout was my workplace was the only place that kept me sane and helped me cope when I was facing domestic violence at home’.

ILO Convention 190 recognises domestic violence as a workplace issue, and states that employers, governments and unions shall take appropriate measures to recognise and mitigate the impacts of domestic violence in the world of work. (C190 Preamble, Article 10(f), Recommendation core principle, III(18).

Read here how employers can extend support to workers vulnerable to domestic violence during the Pandemic, on DV@Work network website. 

Increased risk of violence at workplace Women were already under-represented in male dominated sectors and are further isolated in their workplace during this Pandemic due to massive reductions in labour force participation – temporary or permanent – or through border closures leaving millions of workers stranded.

For example – More than 200,000 seafarers including women who have finished their contracts aboard the world’s ships and they want to go home. Government restrictions on travel and transit have prevented them from doing so during the Covid-19 pandemic.  This isolation during time of crisis has  increased the vulnerability to violence in the workplace for women.

The same risks, along with increased exposure to the virus, exist for customer-facing workers in urban transport.  For women of color, immigrant women or women with disabilities there are intersecting impacts, one fatal example happened when a black women railway worker in London died after being spat on at work by a man who said he had the virus.

ILO Convention 190 applies to violence and harassment in the world of work occurring in the course of, linked with or arising out of work.  This includes the commute to and from work and  employer-provided accommodation. Article  3 (a), (e), (f), and equips the workers to address a workplace crisis like this in the framework of Violence and harassment.

The world of work is being redefined every day 

Work-related communications, through information and communication technologies – already part of our world of work – has increased because of the Pandemic.  There is a rapid shift in ways of working including online meetings, digitalisation/e-offices, to adapt to the challenges of remote working during the Pandemic. There is an increased risk of harassment and violence in these new ways of working including cyber bullying and trolling.

C190 includes violence and harassment in the world of work occurring in the course of, linked with or arising out of work including in work-related communications, including those enabled by information and communication technologies; (Convention 190, Article 3 d)

Occupational health and safety As a result of the gender-segregated nature of the transport industry, women are concentrated on the frontlines of this pandemic in customer-facing and cleaning roles with a higher risk of infection and psychological impacts. This increased exposure, combined with a lack of adequate and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and no psychological support to process the experiences of customer anxiety, fatal risks at workplace, increased stress at home due to risk to the family, and the fact that women also make up the majority of precarious workers, means that women transport workers will disproportionately suffer the negative impacts of the coronavirus crisis.

We are lacking PPE kits and fear carrying the virus home, so we try to keep our children away from us. Even with these challenges, we feel proud to play an important role maintaining cleanliness for everyone.” – Railway worker, India

Convention C190 recognises violence and harassment and associated psychosocial risks as health and safety risk and states that steps should be taken by governments in consultation with representative employers’ and workers’ organisations, to ensure that violence & harassment  are integrated in relevant national policies, including by extending or adapting existing occupational safety and health measures. (Convention 190 – Article 9,11,12)

Visibility of women workers and inclusion in the COVID-19 response 

As we know COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on the global economy, and the most vulnerable groups that are being affected first, will also be the groups that will be affected most, including women.

Backed by research by Professor Tessa Wright on gender and male-dominated industries including transport, we know that strategies for improving the status of women workers succeed when positive gender action forms part of core project objectives and due diligence, with particular opportunities linked to public finance, and private finance for public infrastructure and service delivery.

As we navigate through pandemic, governments have essential responsibility in rebuilding the economy.  With substantial economic stimulus through public and private funds, it’s vital that gender justice is integrated within core investment criteria. The relief fund, economic policies, unemployment benefits need to be informed through the gender lens to make it truly inclusive. Thus it’s critical to ensure a gender lens is applied to COVID-19 response including through gender impact assessments.

Recommendation No. 206 recognises the importance of data. It calls upon states to make efforts to collect and publish statistics disaggregated by sex, forms of violence and harassment, and sector of economic activity, as well as by characteristics of groups in vulnerable situations. This is necessary to inform and monitor policy responses to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work (Para. 22 R206).

The Convention 190 provides a roadmap for a just, safe work environment and equality for all workers, which is critical for sustainability of businesses as the ILO highlights ‘violence and harassment is incompatible with the promotion of sustainable enterprises and impacts negatively on the organisation of work, workplace relations, worker engagement, enterprise reputation, and productivity’ (Convention 190 Preamble). Thus the Convention is also central to rebuilding the global economy. 

Find more about the ITF demand for Women transport workers’ rights and COVID-19 here.  

The ITUC has  produced a number of materials including:

  • Social media graphics and GIFs
  • FAQs
  • Mini guide to C190
  • Sample letter for lobbying governments

All the material are available at:

To know more about ITF C190 Campaign, to share information about ratification action by your union or government, or to get involved, write to us at 

Featured post

‘Domestic Violence and the Workplace: A Qualitative Study with Men’

Domestic violence and the workplace

When workers are experiencing or engaging in violence at home, the impact is felt in the workplace. Historically, workplace policies on violence and harassment have been limited to workplace issues, however with global evidential studies and new policies, including ILO Convention 190 (on violence and harassment in the world of work), domestic violence is increasingly recognised as a workplace issue, as it impacts not only individuals and families, but also communities and society as a whole. When workers are experiencing or engaging in domestic violence, its impacts resonate in the workplace – affecting employment, productivity, and health and safety.

In 2019, the ITF conducted a qualitative study with male perpetrators of domestic violence in the state of Maharashtra, India – working with the Pune based NGO SAMYAK (Samyak is a Communication and Resource Centre on gender, masculinities, health and development) – to understand how work is impacted by domestic violence. This is the first ever study in Asia/Pacific that highlights the link between domestic violence and its impact at work. The study had its own set of challenges and constraints because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Alongside this study, unions in India, with support from the ITF, are leading a national study on understanding the impacts of domestic violence at work from a survivor’s perspective.  Read more here about this groundbreaking study.  Email to find out more about research on domestic violence at work.

A full report of this qualitative study with men will be available soon!

Some of the key findings from the study are:

1. Male respondents feel pressurised by patriarchal social norms to ‘perform’ control over women and children in their family.

“….. my grandfather and my father did control women in our family… I feel that I also need to control my wife to maintain the tradition and keep our family intact”.

2. Male respondents justify their actions of domestic violence, power and control.  Almost all respondents agreed with the statement that ‘men should control their wives’ and gave various reasons for their entitlement to this behaviour.

“If man is under stress, he commits violence. If woman does any mistake in household work then it’s okay to beat her”.

“It is a family… such incidences are going to happen…not a big deal. A man can slap his wife if she does any mistake”.

Text Box: Almost all male respondents agreed with the statement that ‘men should control their wives’.

“It is a family… such incidences are going to happen…not a big deal. A man can slap his wife if she does any mistake”.

3. Male respondents associate domestic violence with physical and verbal forms of abuse and do not recognize emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse or coercively controlling behavior as forms of violence.

“There is only one reason behind violence and that is sex.  Wife is not our enemy.  Everyone uses their wife for having sex.  If you ask her for sex and she refuse it then what can we do?  We are men, we give all things to her, give bread to her, then she should satisfy us.  Otherwise what reason we have wife?”.

4. Male respondents are negatively affected at work by their perpetration of domestic violence.  Stories shared by respondents show that engaging in domestic violence has a range of mild to severe consequences for their work performance and productivity at the workplace.

“I got suspended because of the negligence on the duty, as I was mentally disturbed due to violence committed by me against my wife I was sent on mandatory leave.”

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“I prefer not to go on duty when I am not in good mental condition. I have to face the consequences of that. My seniors report against me. It has happened 2-3 times before and now I prefer to stay at home instead of risking the life of people”.

5. Workplace accidents caused by male respondents impacted by their perpetration of domestic violence, put the safety of passengers and fellow employees at risk and are a significant cost to the employer.

“As I committed domestic violence against my spouse, I dashed my bus against a car…”

Text Box: …absenteeism, poor performances, distraction at work, accidents at work - are the cost of domestic violence that are paid by employer.

“It impacts on my driving, if I have some family tension that I do mistakes while driving. It goes wrong. Can’t concentrate in work in such situation…. Nothing else”.

“I can’t concentrate at work. Once I met an accident while there were passengers on board. Me and passenger got injured in that accident.”

“I had a fight with my mother before leaving home. I went to work but forgot to check the vehicle. I directly started it. There were many passengers on board. Later I realized that the breaks of that bus vehicle were not working properly. I got so tensed but somehow, I managed to stop the vehicle and no injury happened to the passengers. But in that incidence a road side lamb died under the vehicle”.

6. Male respondents need a safe space at work to share their problems, talk about their experiences and seek professional counselling support. The majority of respondents shared that they prefer not to talk about their stress with anyone and prefer to deal with it at a personal level.  However, if provided with an appropriate service, they would be willing to seek professional counselling support at the workplace. They had the opinion that such support at the workplace might help reduce their engagement in domestic violence, reduce stress and create a more productive and safe work environment.

“Availability of counseling facility at the workplace will help me to manage the stress. It may also help me control my violent behaviours at home.”

“There is no help available. I have no option but to stay calm”.

“There are not such facilities available at workplace. I talk with my colleagues about my problems and nothing else”.

Domestic Violence and the World of Work

Domestic violence is increasingly recognised as an issue that impacts not only individuals and families, but also communities and society as a whole. When workers are involved in or affected by domestic violence, its impacts resonate in the workplace – affecting employment, productivity, and health and safety.

Women are at a higher risk of losing their job when they are facing domestic violence, as it can directly impact on their work, which further compounds their vulnerability. In some cases, domestic violence can follow them to work. It enters the workplace in a range of ways – from harassment and violence happening at work (by co-workers or external perpetrators), stress on co-workers, to death in the workplace for workers and others.

“Living with abuse at home is so terrifying. But when I became viewed as a bad employee and (my) job changed, then I had to leave and move away, nothing in (my) life felt safe anymore.” – Woman worker facing domestic violence

On the other hand, being employed is a key pathway to leaving a violent relationship. The financial security that employment affords can allow women to escape the isolation of an abusive relationship, and maintain, as far as possible, their home and standard of living, both for themselves, and their children. The workplace provides positive opportunities to disrupt domestic violence, keep women safe and support them to live lives free of violence.

Domestic violence also has a significant economic cost to work, as established by the outcomes of national studies on domestic violence at work conducted in 10 countries globally

“I was thinking about the relationship. I didn’t have my mind on what I was doing driving an 18000-pound forklift. I spilled one of the bumps of lumber and it broke open. I had to do a lot more work to put it back (and) wasted (a lot of) time.” – Male worker engaging in domestic violence 

National domestic violence at work studies

Globally, employers and governments for the longest time have not recognized the link between domestic violence and the workplace.

However, labour unions have been playing an important role in breaking the culture of silence. Since 2011, 10 countries around the world, including countries in South Asia, have conducted large–scale national studies on domestic violence in the workplace.

These national studies have revealed consistent outcomes, and the results show the  impacts of domestic violence in the workplace. The studies conducted in these countries have been catalysts for policy reforms.

Why unions are conducting a national study in India

The transport unions in India have recognised the need and potential for advocacy work on the issue of domestic violence and setting employer accountability to address the impacts, however, there is a lack of evidence and data in India on this issue.  The national study being conducted by transport unions, which was launched in November 2019, is the first study in India that will highlight the links between domestic violence and its impact in the world of work.

If policies are not gender sensitive and inclusive, there is grave danger that levels of domestic violence will worsen and women’s participation in the workforce will decrease. Against a backdrop of worsening violence against women in the country, it’s the apt time to bridge the data gap on domestic violence and its impacts on the workplace and to reform policies.

The new ILO Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work recognises domestic violence as a workplace issue – noting that it “can affect employment, productivity and health and safety, and that governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations and labour market institutions can help, as part of other measures, to recognise, respond to and address the impacts of domestic violence.”

The national study will therefore also create a foundation for lobbying the government to ratify ILO Convention 190.

Trade unions in India are calling for support across sectors to conduct this national study, and from the results to shape an advocacy campaign and to lobby the government for legal reforms, including ratification of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190).  

To find out more email:

The power of partnership

Ludo McFerran, from Australia, has worked in domestic violence prevention for nearly 40 years. She is a trailblazer in the field and a member of the DV@Work network. After 15 years of discussions with employers about policy and support for employees, and not much progress, Ludo decided to approach the trade union movement. In collaboration with the trade union movement, she initiated the concept of domestic violence paid leave and protection at work through collective bargaining. Today there are, in Australia, something like 1500 collective agreements that contain a domestic violence clause.

Listen to Ludo tell the story of how building an alliance between the domestic violence sector and the trade union movement changed everything and got results for Australian workers experiencing domestic violence.

Ludo made this video in November 2016 for participants attending the ETUC ‘Safe at home, safe at work’ conference in Madrid.  Many thanks to the ETUC for sharing.

DV@Work Newsletter

Read issue 4 here!

It’s got useful background information on the ILO Convention violence against women and men in the world of work and the upcoming tripartite meeting of experts.

An update about a number of national surveys taking place around the world and a feature about our Action Forum which took place in Bali at the end of May this year.


No hay una línea invisible que separe lo que está bien de lo que está mal

Les presentamos el ‘Violentometro’, una herramienta que utiliza nuestra afiliada Camioneros de Argentina para medir la violencia; específicamente, la violencia doméstica perpetrada por la pareja, pero también sirve como termómetro para medir las distintas manifestaciones de violencia que padecen las mujeres en la vida cotidiana, incluidos en sus puestos de trabajo y en la calle. Continue reading “No hay una línea invisible que separe lo que está bien de lo que está mal”

There’s no invisible line to say what is ok and what is not.

Take a look at the ‘Violentometro’. It’s a tool used by our affiliate, Camioneros in Argentina, to measure violence. It’s specifically relevant to domestic violence perpetrated by an intimate partner but is also relevant to the violence experienced in wider society, including in our workplaces and on the street. Continue reading “There’s no invisible line to say what is ok and what is not.”

Tea and consent

What is consent?

In this short film Watch here it’s the CHOICE to have a cup of tea! It is having the FREEDOM and the CAPACITY to make that choice.

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