What is domestic abuse and how does it impact the workplace?

Domestic abuse can destroy lives, leaving physical and emotional scars. Those experiencing domestic abuse can find themselves isolated from friends and family and lose their independence. It can take many forms, not just physical abuse; it can also be financial, emotional and psychological.

One in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime – so it’s likely that all workplaces have staff that have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse, as well as those who are perpetrators.

How domestic abuse has an impact on the workplace

Domestic abuse not only impacts on the wellbeing of the person being abused, it also affects co-workers and the financial strength and success of the companies for which they work.

The cost of domestic abuse to business is estimated at £1.9 billion a year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay (Source: S.Walby, The Cost of Domestic Violence 2009).

Valuable members of staff may be lost if employers do not recognise the signs of abuse. Behaviour changes could be misinterpreted leading to disciplinary action or termination of employment. Loosing a steady income could further exacerbate a difficult situation at home and reduce the survivors ability to escape an abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse can cause employees to be distracted at work, miss work, arrive late or leave early, and increase staff turnover. 54% of employers have reported that domestic abuse caused the quality of the employee’s work to suffer, and 56% said it led to absenteeism.

How to keep employees safe

Did you know that only 5 per cent of organisations have a specific policy or guidelines on the issue of domestic abuse? And 86 per cent of HR leads agree that employers have a duty of care to provide support to employees on the issue of domestic abuse.*

With this in mind it’s essential employers are knowledgeable about domestic abuse as they are ideally placed to offer key support to those experiencing it.

We recommend employers have a clear policy in place on supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse, but also an effective framework of support.

Employees need to be made aware of the policy and how to access support if they need it.

We have a range of resources and services available to support your business in addressing domestic abuse. We can assist in developing policy, raising awareness, educating employees on knowing the signs and in developing information to assist employees who are experiencing domestic abuse.

You can visit support for businesses on our website to find out how we can help.

*Source: ‘Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working Together to transform responses in the Workplace’, Durham University for The Vodafone Foundation, 2018