Domestic abuse can destroy lives, leaving physical and emotional scars. Most often, survivors find themselves isolated from friends and family, having also lost their independence.  Domestic abuse can take many forms; physical abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, financial and economic abuse, sexual abuse and coercive control as well as stalking and harassment after a relationship ends. Sometimes a combination of more than one of these is occurring and, in some cases, many of them will have occurred together.

 

Domestic abuse occurs across the world irrespective of socio-economic status, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation and it doesn’t just happen at home, it has an impact at work too…

 

Research shows that a high proportion of those enduring domestic abuse are targeted at work because the abuser knows they will be there.  Domestic abuse can negatively affect workplace colleagues as well as the person experiencing the abuse. However, vitally, the workplace can often be one of the few places that a person experiencing abuse can be separate from their abuser, and therefore can be the place where people are able to ask for and access support. It’s essential that employers are knowledgeable about domestic abuse as they are ideally placed to offer a lifeline to those experiencing it.  Our aim is to encourage more employers to take an active supporting role, which can make a huge difference to survivors and their future.

 

Domestic abuse and the workplace

With an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their adult life, it’s no surprise that within any workplace there will be those who have experienced violence in their personal or professional lives and those who have potentially been perpetrators of violence.  Despite this, its effects and costs within the workplace remain largely hidden and unidentified by most employers.  Research has shown that a significant proportion of women who experience domestic abuse had to take time off work.  Many other women also reported symptoms that had a long-term effect on their work performance such as depression, anxiety or stress.

A CIPD survey of UK employees suggests that just under a quarter (24%) are aware of their employer having a policy or support in place on domestic abuse.  We know the devastating impact that domestic abuse has on individuals and would therefore encourage all employers to develop a clear policy on supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse, including an effective framework of support.  Most importantly though, employees need to be made aware of their employers policy and how to access support if they need it.

It’s essential to note that with the changing nature of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, more people are working from home, meaning escape routes or time apart from an abuser may be dramatically curtailed.   It is especially important that employers think about how support can be maintained as we all work in different ways.  An empathetic, non-judgemental approach and flexibility (for example in working hours or concerning work tasks) are two key areas employers should focus on.

 

Impact in the workplace – research

Alpha Vesta, a community interest company who mission is to ‘break the cycle of domestic abuse through awareness, prevention and effective and safe early intervention in the workplace’ has stated that a recent study commissioned by Vodafone highlights the damaging impact of domestic abuse in the workplace. Figures released in November 2019 indicate that 574,000 working women have suffered domestic abuse in the last year and Home Office research that £1.9 billion of the total cost of domestic abuse is a direct cost to the economy through regular businesses and workplaces.

These costs are associated with repeated absences and lateness, ongoing mental health and medical issues, lower productivity, distracted and frightened workers and increased insurance premiums.  An astonishing 75% of people experiencing domestic abuse will be targeted at their place of work because the abuser knows they will be there and some 21 per cent of victims take time off work as a direct result of abuse due to Court hearings and concerns about their children.  For nearly a quarter of those, the longest absence was more than a week. Domestic abuse has a direct impact on career progression for any victims and sadly some victims of abuse end up being killed in the workplace by their abuser – with it being a consistent feature of many serious case reviews.

 

What can you do?

To be clear, it’s not for employers to ‘solve’ the problem, but to enable their employees to access professional support, ideally from a local specialist domestic abuse service provider like Next Chapter, but this could also be access to legal advice, financial advice, housing support, counselling or even arranging childcare.  Someone’s circumstances can change very quickly, with their whole life turned upside down – having a supportive employer can make an unparalleled difference to them and their family.

 

Key recommendations

  • Develop a domestic abuse policy and create an effective framework around domestic abuse support.
  • Employers have a duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and are in a strong position to create a safe and supportive workplace environment.
  • Think about the safety/security measures that may be required.
  • Treat everyone as an individual as everyone’s situation will be different. It’s important not to make assumptions about what someone is experiencing or what they need, or the gender of the perpetrator.
    • Respect and accept the victim’s thoughts and ideas on the way forward outside work; the victim will know best how the perpetrator may react.
    • Create open work cultures that help to break the silence around this important issue and ensure people know that the organisation will support people experiencing domestic abuse to seek help.
    • Offer flexibility to enable people to attend counselling, legal and finance appointments, get support from professional organisations and make arrangements, for example concerning childcare and housing.
    • Outline people’s different roles and responsibilities when it comes to supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse.

 

Next Chapter are here to provide support to any individual experiencing domestic abuse and we would welcome working in partnership with any employer to help build a safety plan that includes actions that can be taken in the workplace to keep their member of staff safe.

Alpha Vesta provide expert advice and support to organisations whether they are just starting out exploring the issue or are looking to further develop their organisational support and staff skills. They encourage and support all workplaces to build a strong culture of understanding around domestic abuse and a supportive environment for those affected. 

Domestic abuse doesn’t always look like you think it’s going to look like, and Alpha Vesta support employers and employees to recognise the signs and respond effectively within the workplace.  This benefits the employer and employees but also customers, clients and service users that come into contact with them through their work.

Please do reach out to them to see how they could help you support your staff when they need you most.

https://alphavesta.com/