Employers must tackle the neglected topic of domestic abuse

Business in the Community (BITC) and Public Health England have co-created a freely available Domestic Abuse employer toolkit to help employers recognise the often-overlooked signs of domestic abuse. There’s a compelling business case for tackling domestic abuse with £1.9billion being the estimated cost of domestic abuse due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay.

For far too long domestic abuse has been allowed to happen behind closed doors. Domestic abuse is a crime wherever it occurs. It is against the law. Employers have a duty of care and a legal responsibility to support employees experiencing domestic abuse. Employers should focus on building a supportive working environment where employees experiencing domestic abuse feel able to disclose with the confidence that they will be supported.

The prevalence of domestic abuse affects all employers. It is estimated that as many as one in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. However, many employers are unaware of how to support those affected. Employers are in a unique position to help those going through domestic abuse. While HR professionals want to tackle the issue many do not have policies or guidelines in place.

There’s a clear gap between employers wanting to take action on domestic violence and actually doing something about it. Part of the problem is that there are so many misconceptions about domestic abuse. It can take lots of different forms; it can be physical, psychological, sexual, or economic. 

Even with physical abuse you won’t necessarily see someone with a black eye. A lot of abusers will hurt someone where they know it won’t be visible. There needs to be far more education across the workforce.

We’d encourage employers to approach a conversation about domestic abuse through respecting someone’s boundaries, noticing whether they’re behaving differently, and asking open probing questions. It’s also worth recognising that there may be very different symptoms of domestic abuse depending on the individual.

Let’s build on the good work employers are already doing with mental health in the workplace. We’re starting to realise that just because an issue can take place outside of work it doesn’t mean it’s not the responsibility of employers to help.

In support of the UNiTE campaign we are inviting employers to draw on the toolkit’s actions, and acknowledge domestic abuse in the workplace, by:

  • Creating a conversation in the workplace 
  • Using social media to raise awareness externally in the context of employment
  • Raising awareness in your public & private spaces

We hope the toolkit will build awareness about domestic abuse, dispel myths and fuel debate, resulting in positive employer action that could prevent suffering and save lives.

Join BITC’s webinar on the subject on 27 November.