What can employers do to support a member of staff who may be a victim of domestic abuse?

“Employers owe a duty of care to employees and have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and effective work environment. Preventing and tackling domestic abuse is an integral part of this.”

-The Prince’s Responsible Business Network

This year’s international 16 Days of action against domestic violence campaign runs from 25th November until 10th December 2019.

This campaign aims to raise awareness about the reality of domestic violence and also encourages businesses to focus on employee wellness and become better-equipped to acknowledge the signs that an employee may be a victim of domestic abuse.

“Domestic abuse can impact on the workplace. The morale, health and self-confidence of an abused employee can be affected and this in turn can impact on their performance at work. Colleagues may also be affected by having to cover a survivor’s workload or feeling unable to help when they know there is a problem. Domestic abuse currently costs UK business over £2.7 billion a year due to lost economic output through decreased productivity…”

(End The Fear http://www.endthefear.co.uk/)

In order to help employers Public Health England and The Prince’s Responsible Business Network have produced a very informative and practical toolkit for employers. https://www.bitc.org.uk/toolkit/domestic-abuse-toolkit/.

Spot the signs and symptoms:

“58% of abused women miss at least three days of work a month and 56% of abused women arrive late for work at least five times”

16 Days of Action
  • frequent absence, lateness or needing to leave work early
  • reduced quality and quantity of work or missing deadlines
  • changes in the way an employee communicates – a large number of personal calls or texts or a strong reaction to personal calls
  • physical signs and symptoms such as unexplained or frequent bruises or other injuries

Acknowledge, refer and respond to the issues by:

  • Having a policy on domestic abuse

Providing a supportive workplace will help to ensure that employers are complying with the law for workplace and homebased employees. The policy should include guidance, a plan and checklists. It is useful to inform employees in the staff manual and as part of the initial introduction to the firm, a reminder via bulletins and staff update meetings and using intranet to signpost employees to a wide range of support groups. It also helps both victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse see that support is available.

  • Appoint employees to be the point of contact and train them to handle domestic abuse issues

People appointed should have the respect, sympathy and be approachable. Training and the tools to help the victim should be provided.

  • Signposting

Decide on the routes available to help the victim, in particular, specialist services, where appropriate with up to date contact details.

  • Safe environment

If an employee discloses they may be at risk of harm suitable workplace adjustments will need to be put in place.

  • Record and treat information as strictly confidential

Keep a record of incidents and any involvement but ensure it is held outside of official employee records and held securely.

  • Be prepared

Before the policy is launched ensure all procedures are in place to give confidence to the victim and those tasked to help.

  • Moving forward

The government launched a major consultation on domestic abuse in 2018 with a view to a Domestic Violence and Abuse Act, consolidating the current legislation and introducing new measures to help people affected by domestic abuse. In the meantime employers have a responsibility under the current legislation. It will be interesting to see if the new government resurrect the consultation.

Anyone affected by domestic abuse, including victims, concerned friends or Employers seeking further information, can contact the Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice and signposting – telephone: 08 088 088 088, website https://www.hertsdomesticabusehelpline.org/.