How to support an employee experiencing domestic abuse

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

As the government issues a statement following their review into the current statutory leave provision for employees experiencing domestic abuse, we look at how employers can support affected employees in their organisation.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse includes but is not limited to controlling, coercive, and threatening behaviour. It can be physical, emotional, psychological and/or financial, and can take place in person or through digital means.

It does not just occur within the home. The affected employee could receive threatening visits, phone calls and emails from the perpetrator whilst they are at work, or when travelling to or from work. Domestic abuse can also impact the affected employee’s attendance at work and performance.

It is, therefore, a workplace issue for which employers need to be alert to and have support mechanisms in place.

How to identify an employee may be experiencing domestic abuse

Managers should receive training to be able to spot signs that an employee may be experiencing domestic abuse and how to sensitively and carefully raise this with the employee. Possible signs may include the following:

·       Sudden changes in behaviour or quality of work

·       Lack of concentration

·       Taking an increased amount of phone calls at work

·       Changes in the way an employee dresses, for example, excessive clothing on a hot day or changes in the amount of make-up work

What reasonable adjustments would help domestic abuse victims?

Can I call the police if an employee tells me they have been experiencing domestic abuse?

Do employers have to provide support for domestic abuse victims in their workplace?

What support can be provided to affected employees?

Possible support an organisation may be able to provide includes:

·       Regularly checking in with the affected employee

·       Permitting the use of company equipment to search for online assistance or to speak to an expert who can help

·       Ensuring websites of organisations who can help are accessible from work equipment, so, make sure that they are not blocked under an internet usage policy

·       Allowing the employee time off to visit one of the advice organisations, the police, a doctor, or to address legal, financial, or housing concerns

·       Diverting phone calls if the perpetrator is attempting to call the employee at work

·       Ensuring there is no public access to the workplace, where possible

Government review

Since 2022, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and then the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), have reviewed the current statutory leave provision to consider whether or not it provides enough support for employees who are trying to escape domestic abuse. After completion of this review, the Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake, has released a statement.

The review found that whilst workplaces can be a place of safety, in recent years the nature of the workplace has changed given that many employees now work from home. This, therefore, needs to be factored into the organisation’s approach to supporting affected employees.

Whilst the review considered whether a new specific leave entitlement should be introduced, it concluded that the needs of employees experiencing domestic abuse will be different and, consequently, flexibility is needed about when and where they work, or in allowing time off for appointments.

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