We know that there is no typical domestic abuse victim, and many suffer in silence until it becomes so serious that external intervention is required.  A place of work can be someone’s only place of safety and an employer or colleague that makes themselves approachable and is able to recognise and understand domestic abuse and respond appropriately is a precious resource and may allow the victim to receive support early enough to prevent things escalating.

We also know that the effects and costs of domestic abuse 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 victims report symptoms that had a long term effect on their work performance.

4 Situations at Work You Worry About Too Much | Inc.com

On average a woman will experience 35 episodes of domestic abuse before seeking help (Jaffe et al, 1986).  It can be difficult for an employee to tell others about their situation, or to approach their manager with their problems.  There could however be many signs that a staff member is experiencing domestic abuse and these include:

  • changes in behaviour including uncharacteristic withdrawal, depression, anxiety, distraction or problems with concentration
  • changes in the quality of work for no apparent reason
  • arriving late or leaving early
  • reduced attendance or increased sick leave or high presenteeism without an explanation
  • needing regular time off for appointments
  • taking frequent or excessive calls during work time from a partner
  • repeated injuries or unexplained bruising or explanations that do not fit with the injuries
  • substance use/dependence
  • inappropriate or excessive clothing (that might be hiding injuries or bruising).

We do therefore encourage employers to consider the provision of some domestic abuse awareness training to help identify these signs and offer support, as well as being able to adapt the workplace to mitigate against any possible risk to the victim of domestic abuse.  Employers may also consider creating domestic abuse champions as part of a supportive and safe environment to care for their employees in the best way possible, and where appropriate and with consent, directing or referring those affected by domestic abuse to a specialist service such as Next Chapter.

Creating such a positive and caring culture in the workplace with the ability for employees to share their situation and reach out for support not only helps to prevent the escalation of abuse, it will keep employees and their families safer, help to reduce sickness, lateness and poor productivity and promote positive health and wellbeing.

We would encourage you to speak with your employers to request they include domestic abuse awareness as part of any health and wellbeing policy or strategy – your colleagues will thank you for it.