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Domestic Abuse

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have stated that over two million people experienced domestic abuse in 2023 and the majority of them were woman, but it is important to be aware that men can and do, experience domestic abuse.


Based on this statistic, it is likely that an employee within your organisation is affected by domestic abuse during their employment and so as their employer, you have a legal responsibility under Health and Safety legislation to protect your employees.


The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines domestic abuse, as abusive behaviour by one person to another, where they are both aged 16 or over and they are personally connected. The abuse can be a single incident or a course of conduct. Abusive behaviour consists of any of the following:


  • physical or sexual abuse,

  • violent or threatening behaviour,

  • controlling or coercive behaviour,

  • economic abuse, or

  • psychological, emotional or other abuse.


Research conducted by the TUC showed that over 40% of employees who had experienced domestic abuse, were prevented from getting to work by their abuser and this was commonly through physical violence, or restraint followed by threats.


Employees who attend work can be negatively affected by domestic abuse whilst at work and this can be through:

  • threatening phone calls and emails

  • abuse whilst travelling to and from work

  • their performance, attendance, career prospects and job security


In addition, colleagues of the employee can also experience threatening or intimidating behaviour from the perpetrator, so the abuse can transcend the employee.


The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that domestic violence and abuse costs UK organisations over £1.9 billion per year, as it can result in sickness absence and a loss of productivity.


Duty of Care

Employers have a duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of all their employees and if an employee discloses domestic abuse, then the working environment should provide the employee with flexibility and adaptable measures that meet the needs of the employee experiencing domestic abuse. The measures may consist of working hours, consideration for their personal safety, respect of confidentiality and the appropriateness of support services in terms of their gender, ethnic background, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation and language.


Each employees' needs will be different and so the measures should be appropriate to the person and only implemented upon the agreement of the employee.


The employer should take reasonable steps to prevent an employee from being targeted by their abuser at work.


You may also need to consider if there are children in the household who may be at risk and contact the LADO.


Framework

Having an effective framework around domestic abuse support and creating a supportive and open culture, can help to break the silence regarding domestic abuse and make a difference for employees. There are four steps within the framework:


Recognise the problem

The first step is to recognise the problem:

  • sudden changes in behaviour and/or changes in the quality of performance for unexplained reasons, despite a previously good record.

  • changes in the way the employee dresses, such as excessive clothing on hot days, or changes in the amount of make-up worn.

  • the employee may not believe they are experiencing domestic abuse, but may talk about the behaviour from their partner that is violent, abusive or coercively controlling, so open and empathetic questions should be asked:

    • how are you doing at the moment?

    • how are things at home?

    • are there any issues you would like to discuss with me?

    • I have noticed recently that you are not yourself. Is anything the matter?

  • an employee may make a disclosure to their union representative, so employers should work closely with the union representative to support the employee.

  • be mindful if raising concerns with employees who are working from home, as the abuser may be monitoring the employee's emails or other methods of communication.

  • domestic abuse can happen to anyone, although more woman are affected, but it can happen to men and in same-sex relationships.


Respond appropriately to disclosure

Secondly respond to the disclosure appropriately, as this will create a sense of support for the employee:

  • be empathetic and compassionate when responding to the employee's disclosure.

  • believe the employee and do not ask for proof.

  • don't make assumptions about what the employee is experiencing or what they need. This includes not assuming the gender of the employee's partner.

  • reassure the employee that you understand how this may affect their performance and outline what support can be offered to them.

  • make clear that the aim is to ensure that the conversation will remain confidential, but there may be some degree of information sharing which is necessary, for example with their line manager.

  • if the employee and perpetrator work at the same organisation then you will need to consider safety measures to be put in place, such as restricting access to the employee's personal information, depending upon the perpetrator's postiion.


Provide support

  • undertake welfare check-ins regularly to enable the employee to share concerns or worries, offer support such as flexibility and signpost the employee to professional support.

  • review the support required regularly, as this may change over time.

  • agree the best way to maintain contact.

  • consider time off options, if required.

  • divert phone calls and emails if the employee is receiving harassment.

  • agree with the employee as to what information is shared with colleagues and how to respond to their abuser if they telephone or visit the workplace.

  • check the employee's arrangements for getting safely to and from work.

  • with the consent of employee you could agree code words or hand signals in video calls, if they are in a threatening situation whilst working from home.

  • keep a record of any incidents of abuse which occur in the workplace, or any concerns that the employee reports.

  • display domestic helpline posters in physical and virtual spaces.


Refer to approrpiate help

  • be clear on the roles and responsibilities within the organisation in relation to supporting an employee with domestic abuse and set boundaries.

  • provide a list of support services.

  • consider how to support the wellbeing of the employee's colleagues and direct them to support services that are avaialble to them, so that they can look after their own wellbeing.


Support Services

Below is a list of some organisations that can provide support with domestic abuse:


National Domestic Abuse Helpline (freephone, 24 hours) - 0808 2000247, a live online chat is also available.


Women's Aid is a national charity who provide local support, training and information if you are worrying about someone. They also have an online chat facility.


National Rape Crisis Helpline - 0808 8029999, a live online chat is also available.


ManKind Initiative - 01823 334244, a national charity that provides help and support for male survivors of domestic abuse and domestic violence.


Respect Men's Advice Line - 0808 8010327, a webchat is avaiable at certain times and the advice line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them.


Samaritans - 116 123 or email j0@samaritans.org (response time is 24 hours)









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