Thursday, 27 October 2022 16:05

Domestic Abuse & the Workplace

Did you know that October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month? October was first declared as National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month in 1989. It’s a month dedicated to raising awareness and acknowledging domestic abuse victims and survivors.

Whilst the default position of many employers may be one of not getting involved in domestic relationship issues, we would remind them of an organisation’s implicit duty of care to its employees. Indeed, apart from the obvious welfare issue, the Health & Safety at Work Act also comes into effect; especially where an abuse victim’s colleagues might be put at risk.

Lapses in concentration in a critical role or duty could catastrophically endanger others. Furthermore, in addition to the effects that abuse may have on the individual and their performance, we shouldn’t underestimate how much this might rub off on the performance of their co-workers.

If the workplace is acting as a place of refuge for an abused individual, then even unwittingly, the employer could be playing a vital role in that person’s wellbeing.

We first posted about domestic abuse over two years ago when a notable rise int the number of reports occurred, considered to be a side-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and of the associated lockdown. One the most startling revelations at that time was just how much some victims rely on the workplace as a haven or place of escape from an abusive relationship or environment.

Lockdown was an easy explanation for a rise in reported domestic abuse cases. With households forced to remain in their own company for extended periods, relationships could easily become fraught with tensions building until they erupted in an outburst of violence. For those reported cases, we should remember that there are many more that go unreported for fear of even greater violence or reprisals.

As lockdown restrictions were lifted, we entered the great Working from Home debate. Having experienced a functional business without the added cost of a bricks & mortar premises, some employers famously chose to do away their offices and asked all employees to work from home. Whilst a high proportion of workers embraced this opportunity, there may have been many who exist in an abusive relationship and who will dreaded the prospect of homeworking.

Following the easing of covid related working restrictions and the wider return to the traditional workplace, the shadow that domestic abuse cast has waned somewhat and it is no longer an issue that makes the headlines. Of course, that doesn’t mean it has gone away and organisations should consider giving it the attention that mental health has garnered over recent years.

Businesses are not expected to take responsibility to resolve cases of domestic abuse, but they should, as part of their general employee welfare duties, notice the signs and signpost affected staff-members to relevant organisations and support groups. Ignoring or turning a blind eye when it’s evident that an issue exists, or is even suspected, will almost certainly compound the effects of the abuse for the individual.

Countering the effects that domestic abuse might have in the workplace doesn’t have to be a huge, costly exercise and in fact there are some simple, quick wins that can be implemented by anyone:

  • Firstly, we need to recognise that there might be a problem.
    • Has behaviour changed?
    • Is an individual uncharacteristically late for work or has let their work standards drop?
    • Does the individual always choose to come to work, even when homeworking is offered
    • Is someone dressing differently or unsuitably for the time of year possibly to covers marks or bruising?
    • Abuse isn’t always physical so be aware of mental abuse too

  • If an employee discloses they are being abused then don’t doubt or question it; reassure them that they will be supported at work

  • Take whatever action you can that doesn’t risk worsening the issue. This may be changing how incoming phone calls or e-mails are managed so the abuser cannot access their victim whilst they are at work or are discouraged to try

  • Display posters or information for support groups of domestic abuse or have a list of organisations readily available

  • Remember that men can also be victims of domestic abuse and that it can occur in same sex relationships too

Something as fundamental as ensuring your managers are trained in how to deal with difficult conversations could be a really effective first step toward supporting staff who may be victims of domestic abuse.

We’ve compiled a new Domestic Abuse Awareness fact sheet which is available to download from our Toolkits. It’s FREE to download at the moment with the discount coupon AWARE100.

If you require any support with handling a known or suspected instance of domestic abuse you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 886 times Last modified on Thursday, 27 October 2022 16:19


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

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