How to support employees suffering from domestic violence

You may be aware from articles on the news that the COVID-19 lockdown has created different situations for people in lockdown, and one of the most worrying is the rise in domestic violence. This was already an issue before the pandemic struck, but it has exacerbated the situation for those affected who have not been able to go out to work to escape their abusers.

The Domestic Abuse Bill, which has been on the Government agenda since January 2019, has been re-introduced and now awaits its second reading in the House of Lords. But what can employers do now to help protect employees, particularly as working from home appears to be here to stay for much longer than originally expected?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released guidance at the end of September for employers which helps to answer that question. It encourages employers to recognise that, whilst they are not able (or will be expected) to solve the issue, they can support employees to access professional support. The guidance makes a series of recommendations, which include:

1. Developing a domestic abuse policy and framework for support;
2. Treat everyone as an individual and not make assumptions about what people are experiencing;
3. Creating an open culture to break the silence around the topic; and
4. Signposts to supportive services, charities and organisations, and outline the type of support people may need.
5. Although not necessarily considered to be a workplace issue, the guidance highlights that domestic abuse has an impact at work, and 75% of those who endure domestic abuse are targeted at work (harassing phone calls, partners turning up at the office, etc.)

Employers have a duty of care to employees and their health, safety, and wellbeing, and this extends to those who are working from home, where these issues are likely to be highlighted and increased.

It is not an issue for an employer to solve, but managers must be alert to the possibility of, and aware of signs of, potential abuse. For example these might include changes in behaviour or quality of work, or changes in the way employees dress. Employers need to be empathetic and provide support. This may be more difficult if employees are working from home, so managers need to be more sensitive to the warning signals than they might otherwise be if the employee was physically on the employer’s premises.

If you do not have a domestic abuse policy and would like to discuss how you could introduce one so that you can let employees know how your can support them in such circumstances, please get in touch.
Posted on 08 Oct 2020
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