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GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS on supporting domestic abuse survivors

Given the prevalence of domestic abuse in society it is likely that one or more of your employees is being abused at the moment and the consequences are not just the physical and psychological impact on the victims.  Many victims of domestic abuse will hold down a full time job.

The financial toll of domestic abuse on our wider economy is staggering, costing the UK somewhere in the region of £5.5 billion per annum in terms of lost economic output, the cost to the criminal justice system and the expense of physical and mental health costs.  This impacts on everyone, not just those people directly affected by domestic abuse. 

The Consequences of Domestic Abuse on the Workplace.

Domestic abuse is having a negative impact on the morale, productivity and performance of workplace teams across the county and we want to work with businesses to help them help their staff.

Physical abuse can prevent an employee being able to work at all or to full capacity, due to injury and the consequent impact on mobility, hearing and vision. Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, can affect concentration levels, ability to cope under pressure, and productivity levels.  Excess alcohol or drug use, which are often seen as coping mechanisms, can directly impact on productivity and potentially put the person and their work colleagues at risk.    There is also the possibility of work place harassment, where a perpetrator targets their victim at work by phone, email and in person, intimidating and even assaulting their victim at work

Spotting The Signs Someone is Being Abused.

There are a variety of signs which might suggest your colleague is enduring coercive control or domestic abuse.  Here are some of the key ones:

  • Obvious physical injury, or bruising in places that you would not normally equate with 'bumping into doors'.  You may find the victim suddenly changes their dress style wearing, for example, high necked, long sleeved tops.
  • Changes in behaviour, signs of stress, being jumpy, increased fatigue.
  • Increased presenteeism - staying at work because they don't want to go home.
  • Unusually frequent telephone calls or texts from their partner checking up on them.
  • Frequent absences or tardiness - their partner may have deliberately delayed them coming to work.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs) often associated with being a way of coping with the situation.
  • Signs their partner makes all the decisions for them and is overly controlling.

Visit our 'How to spot the signs some-one is enduring Domestic Violence' article for more information.

Please be aware that it's possible an employee is distracted because they are concerned about the abuse of a close friend or family member and that they are not themselves a victim.

Please also remember that men are victims too.  In fact they are even less likely to seek help for fear of being laughed at by colleagues.  The number of male victims is increasing and thankfully more are now coming forward to seek help. Our blog on Domestic Violence against men gives a comprehensive overview of this issue.

These are just some examples.  You and your managers know your staff best and you will know when they start behaving differently.

Ways to Help Someone Experiencing Domestic Abuse.

Victims are likely to be hesitant about seeking help.  Many  believe that such behaviour is normal or that they have done something to deserve being treated that way.  Others are concerned that if they report their partner to the authorities it could lead to their partner being arrested, which they may not want, or to having their children taken away from them.

This is why the Helpline, being free and anonymous, is such a great service for victims in Hertfordshire.

Many businesses have Employee Assistance Programmes but we have found that not all employees want to use them because they have to give their staff employment number and perceive everyone will end up knowing their business. 

Some employers provide a 'safe' room where employees can make phone calls in private.  We would recommend doing this.  It gives victims the opportunity to call us, free of charge, to talk to our trained, non-judgmental, call takers and receive options about what they might do tailored to their particular situation.  The decision as to what action to take remains with the victim at all times. 

  • Please ensure that your HR department has the Helpline number.
  • Please put up our posters on your noticeboards, including in canteens, rest rooms, etc.  
  • Nominate one key person who staff can talk to about such matters.
  • Make sure all staff are aware about the support you are offering.

If you would like more information about abusive behaviour our blog area has a variety of useful articles. Why not read our article on gas lighting to find out more about this lesser known form of abuse.

More Information and Help Available

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence

The 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence campaign, supported by Public Health England, is aimed at businesses that lack an infrastructure to deal with the large-scale problem that is domestic violence. As it stands, companies can do more to aid their employees who endure domestic violence, train those who witness it, and to protect staff as a whole, with the goal of securing safety and mitigating financial loss.  To find out more about how domestic abuse impacts on the workplace and what you can do to help click here to access the 16 Days website.

You may also find it helpful to read the Department of Health Guide : Responding to Colleagues Experiencing Domestic Abuse

The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence (CAADV) is the nationally recognized membership charity working with employers addressing the impact of domestic violence in the workplace.  Its membership includes companies like BP, British Airways and Google.  It can help you with things like policies and procedures.

The Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse is a Network of more than 170 companies and public sector organisations who have come together, to exchange information about best practice, and to encourage, promote and develop action to help staff who are enduring domestic abuse, or who are perpetrators. 

See also Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working Together to Transform Responses in the Workplace by Westmarland, N (2017) : Vodafone Foundation in association with Ipsos MORI and Durham University.

If you have any questions about the impact of domestic abuse on your workplace you can contact us.  There is more information on making your workplace a safe place to talk in our blog, as well as a comprehensive guide to spotting the signs someone is suffering abuse.

Feel free to call our Helpline to answer any specific questions you may have on 08 088 088 088.