Why organisations should implement a Domestic Abuse Policy
25th November marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, so we’re looking at how organisations can help to reduce the stigma around the topic of violence against women, in particular making it easier for victims of domestic abuse to be supported in the workplace.
Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all violent crime reported to the police in the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics ‘Domestic abuse: findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales’, 1 in 4 women will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime and 73% of domestic violence victims are women. These are shocking statistics, made even more shocking by the fact that domestic abuse remains a hidden crime, usually happening behind closed doors, so these figures are unlikely to represent the true scale of the problem.
What these statistics highlight is the fact that it’s very likely that there are victims and perpetrators of domestic violence within our workplaces. Sadly, the impact of recession and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is likely to increase instances of domestic violence too, as the additional stresses exacerbate the situation.
Domestic abuse remains a taboo subject both inside and outside of work and victims often feel shame and fear, so they don’t share their experience with anyone, let alone with their manager in work. It’s vital that we all work towards breaking the taboo and making it easier for victims to approach the subject in the workplace.
In January of 2021, the Government published a report on improving workplace support for domestic abuse victims, including how to raise awareness and provide best practice guidance amongst employers. With ACAS also welcoming the Government’s recognition of the need to support employees experiencing domestic abuse, the importance of this role for employers to play in recognising the issue, de-stigmatising it and providing a safe environment has become more prominent.
Reducing the stigma
As employers, we have a duty to support our employees’ mental wellbeing and safety, and it’s important that line managers are given the training and resources to know what to do if a colleague raises the subject of domestic violence. Supportive policies are the first step in signposting to your employees that your workplace is a safe place to raise the subject of domestic abuse.
The signs of domestic abuse can be incredibly hard for an employer, manager or colleague to spot, so implementing a policy that assures employees any reports of abuse will be treated seriously and in confidence may help to open the door to a discussion that would otherwise remain unspoken.
Providing appropriate advice and support, including exploring what workplace adjustments could help a victim to manage the situation, could make a significant difference to the wellbeing of the survivor.
ACAS strongly believes that employers should raise awareness of the issue and should consider introducing a domestic abuse policy designed in consultation with employees and any representatives. Having resources available and signposting to support agencies for both survivors and instigators will help demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to taking domestic abuse seriously and removing the taboo.
In addition to ensuring that any employee who is the victim of domestic abuse is fully aware that they can raise the issue in safety, other ways employers could support their colleagues may include:
- Allowing paid leave for relevant appointments, including those with support agencies, solicitors, to rearrange housing or childcare, and for court appointments.
- Making temporary or permanent changes to working times and patterns.
- Making changes to specific duties, for example to avoid potential contact with an abuser in a customer facing role.
- Exploring the opportunity for redeployment or relocation.
- Putting measures in place to ensure a safe working environment, for example, changing a telephone number to avoid unwarranted phone calls.
- Using other existing policies, including flexible working.
- Providing access to counselling or support services in paid time.
Domestic Abuse policy support
If your organisation is yet to implement a Domestic Abuse policy, we can support you with our off-the-shelf or tailored policy services. Find out more here.
Domestic abuse support resources
If anyone considers themselves to be in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the Police, if you cannot speak and are calling on a mobile you can press 55 to have your call transferred to the Police.
Here are some additional resources for anyone who needs more information or support:
Refuge: Offering support to women and children suffering abuse. Phone 0808 2000 247 or visit https://refuge.org.uk/
Respect: Offering advice and support to men suffering domestic abuse. Phone 0808 801 0327 or visit https://mensadviceline.org.uk/
Respect also offers support for those who may be concerned that they are displaying violent or abusive tendencies in their domestic relationships. Phone 0808 802 4040.