Domestic abuse is all our business: How employers can support their staff
Employers have an important role to play as part of the overall response to domestic abuse. They have a responsibility towards their employees and are often in a unique position to provide both a place of safety and a wide range of support to those facing domestic abuse, including those who want to escape from an abusive relationship.
Across the UK, one in four women and one in six to seven men are likely to experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic abuse is an insidious, largely hidden crime, which impacts children, families, and the wider community. It extends beyond physical violence and includes sexual abuse, violent and threatening behaviour, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse and psychological or emotional abuse. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status or background.
For too long domestic abuse was perceived to be a private matter that happened behind closed doors. We have moved a long way since then in recognising that we all have a part to play in calling it out and supporting those who are affected. However, recent events have exacerbated the issue, with calls to domestic abuse helplines increasing by over 60% since the first Covid national lockdown and the current cost of living crisis adding further stress to the lives of many.
EIDA was set up in 2018 to support employers across the UK to tackle domestic abuse. Since that time, we have grown to a network of over 1,250 employers, who collectively employ at least 25% of the UK’s workforce. We focus on four key activities:
- Raising awareness about domestic abuse amongst employers, inspiring and supporting them to tackle domestic abuse.
- Providing the tools an employer needs to take effective action (including a template domestic abuse policy, guidance and case studies).
- Sharing ideas so that employers can learn from each other, including through resources and events.
- Working with government, domestic abuse sector partners and academics to provide the latest guidance and to champion change.
Employers are asked to agree to EIDA’s membership charter which has five commitments:
- To raise awareness among their employees of the many forms domestic abuse can take.
- To foster a safe, supportive and open environment to allow domestic abuse to be effectively tackled in their workplace.
- To support employees who are affected by domestic abuse and those that report it by providing access to information and services.
- To provide education and support to help perpetrators of domestic abuse to stop.
- To share best practice with other employers.
Why should employers have policies and procedures to support those experiencing domestic abuse?
There is an obvious moral case for supporting those experiencing domestic abuse. There is also a strong business case. The cost to the economy is considerable, with an estimated £14 billion arising from time off work and reduced productivity. Domestic abuse can have an adverse impact on morale within the workplace, as well as on an organisation’s reputation. Domestic abuse can extend into the workplace, through abusive calls and messages to the victim or their colleagues. Equally, the workplace can be a place of safety and support. Research commissioned by the Vodafone Foundation in 2019 found that 86% of companies believe they have a duty of care towards victims of domestic abuse but that at that time, only 5% had introduced a policy or guidance about domestic abuse.
Examples of practical support provided by employers
Having a domestic abuse policy sends a clear message that domestic abuse is not tolerated, and that the employer will provide support to their employees. It can be very difficult for people to seek support given the stigma that still surrounds domestic abuse. Whilst many employers who do not have a policy can and do provide support, having a domestic policy removes a barrier to seeking that help.
There is no one-size-fits-all in terms of the support needed
However, here are some of the practical ways in which EIDA members support their people:
- Agree a safe and confidential method of communication with the employee.
- Provide a quiet area where the employee can make calls or meet with those supporting them.
- Allow the employee to move to a different office or location to work, especially if they are in customer-facing roles.
- Provide flexible working hours or paid time off so the employee can attend meetings with schools, social workers or court hearings.
- Change an employee’s work number if they are being harassed.
- Ensure the employee does not work alone or in isolated areas.
- With consent from the employee, alert reception and security staff and create a plan of action should the perpetrator be seen on the premises.
- Provide support where an employee decides to leave an abusive situation: some EIDA members provide free accommodation for a short period, an advance on salary for those facing economic abuse or even non-repayable financial support.
- Signpost employees to providers of specialist domestic abuse services, including refuges.
Domestic abuse is all our business…
Please join EIDA’s network of employers and work with us to change and save the lives of people in your workplace affected by domestic abuse. Membership of EIDA is free from: www.eida.org.uk/membership