Domestic Violence – How Employers can help tackle the problem

October 4, 2017

More than 1 in 4 women and around 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse at some point in their life – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Domestic violence affects thousands of people every day, with a huge proportion of it left unreported, particularly in regards to male victims’ as such a huge stigma still exists.

Laura has some advice for employers on how to identify and help an employee suffering from domestic violence.

By Laura Rigby

What is Domestic Violence?

The Domestic Violence Resource Manual for Employers, written in partnership between two charities for Domestic Abuse – Refuge and Respect, defines domestic violence as the abuse of power over one person by another. It can take many different forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

Domestic violence often forms a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour. It is rarely confined to a one-off incident and it usually escalates in frequency and severity over time – particularly if the victim tries to exercise their independence and challenges the perpetrator’s control.

Domestic violence is intentional and purposeful. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, religion, social class, sexuality or gender.

How can Employer’s help?

First of all, employers have a legal responsibility and duty of care towards their employees. They are responsible for the health and safety of their staff under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1992).

Secondly, work is a huge part of most people’s life – at the very least in relation to the amount of time spent at work. Therefore there’s a moral obligation to help in some way– even if that’s something as simple as raising awareness.

The Impact of Domestic Abuse on a Workplace

75% of people experiencing domestic abuse are targeted at work. This can include harassment by telephone calls, emails etc, stalking them and turning up at work or leaving unwelcome notes on their car, for example.

Naturally, the employee’s ability to work will be affected; their productivity or attention to detail will decrease perhaps through a loss in confidence or due to physical abuse.

Other signs to be aware of are:

  • Increased absence
  • Lateness
  • Regularly needing to leave urgently
  • A change in performance level and lower quality work
  • A change in behaviour
  • A change in appearance, such as covering up or wearing less make up

If you have any of these concerns with an employee, this is the first stage to recognising a potential problem.

How to deal with it

Communicate with them but respect their confidentiality. Don’t assume that domestic abuse is definitely the reason why they’re struggling at work and don’t expect them to open up to you straight away. By showing your concern and reassuring them of the support available and that there’ll be no judgement, they’re more likely to ask for help when they’re ready.

If they do open up, consider your obligations and whether you need to tell the Police.

Be sure to remove any immediate harm. If they work alone, for example, move them to a communal area and don’t facilitate a situation where they could be harassed further by the perpetrator. In short, make sure they’re at no risk of abuse at work.

Short-term financial support might be needed, such as a bridging loan if your employee needs help moving into emergency accommodation for example.

Moral support can go long way but be mindful that there’s only so much you can do as an employer. Listen and be supportive but remember it’s not your problem to fix directly.

Employee Assistance Programmes can provide access to more structured support, like counselling, debt management, money advice etc. These are confidential and can provide another avenue of support for your employee.

As a rule of thumb, the aim of any intervention around domestic violence is to increase the safety of those at risk of harm.

Organisations should follow the 4 ‘R’s:

  • Recognise the problem (look for the signs and ask)
  • Respond appropriately
  • Refer on to appropriate help
  • Record the details

Other General things you can do

Raise general awareness throughout the business by introducing the following:

  • As part of your general wellbeing policies, introduce a clear policy on how to deal with suspected domestic violence.
  • Train managers on this.
  • Put up posters and a list of support services.
  • Fundraise for or volunteer at domestic violence charities as part of your general Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • Follow the 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence between 25th November and 10th December to better equip our workplace to acknowledge the signs of Domestic Abuse.


Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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