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Dignity at work: National Inclusion Week blog

For day three of National Inclusion Week, our Head of Business Excellence, Elaine Johnson, writes about dignity at work...

When I first joined the housing sector back in 2005, as part of my induction a very wise and knowledgeable housing professional described housing as “the fourth emergency service”. At the time I didn’t really know what she meant, but as I got more involved in what my colleagues at the front line of housing management do an a daily basis, I started to understand. Housing can sometimes be at the forefront of crisis in people’s lives and particularly in regard to safeguarding issues.

I remember very clearly the impact of the death of a mother and her son, at the hands of her partner, had on the Housing Officers involved. Domestic violence is something they deal with far too frequently. Last Summer I moved to Rochdale – a town with Child Sexual Exploitation in the spotlight, graphically depicted in the ‘Three Girls’ TV drama. RBH employees could not however switch off at the end of that serial. Some of the victims and perpetrators live in our communities. Our employees continues to deal with the issues.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Modern Slavery …. All things most of us see on the television, but we don’t come across in our daily lives, or do we?

The issues happening in our communities are also part of our workplace community. We work alongside people who may be victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, CSE, FGM etc, but as employers we often have not thought about how we would deal with these matters when they confront us. We have strategies and policies about how we approach these matters with customers, but what about when they occur with our employees?

Most employers have Dignity at Work Policies that outline approaches to workplace bullying and harassment, but they then stop. What about when that bullying and harassment is outside the workplace, in their own home, with their partner or children. Do we, should we, get involved? How do we support victims? How do we support perpetrators to change? How does this fit with our wellbeing strategies? What is an employer’s appropriate response?

What happens if an employee is accused of Child Sexual Exploitation? Or their partner?  What does a responsible employer do next? Female Genital Mutilation – do we need to talk about it in the workplace?

Is it time to expand our thinking? As these things become more and more openly discussed in our communities, they will affect our workplaces and we need to have thought through appropriate responses before being caught in the eye of the storm.

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