Support your staff
In Somerset, we can estimate around 78,330 (17% of the population) will have experienced domestic abuse over their lifetime. On an annual basis, this equates to 23,960 individuals (5% of the population) every year who experience domestic abuse.
One of the simplest steps an employer can take to support their staff is to raise awareness, making their staff informed about what domestic abuse is. You can participate in Somerset Council’s domestic abuse campaigns, for more information email email@example.com
It is also helpful to address the common myths around the issue – such as the idea that domestic abuse only happens to women, or it always involves physical violence.
Busting the myths about domestic abuse
Creating an environment that is open and transparent puts confidence in employees who are affected by domestic abuse, that they will be supported if they acknowledge that their relationship is abusive. Employers can then provide the right access to relevant support and signposting.
Spotting the signs of domestic abuse
It is not always easy to spot the signs that an employee is experiencing domestic abuse. Employers are not expected to be specialists in handling cases of domestic abuse. However, addressing the stigma, having a culture of open discussion and knowing where to get help can go a long way in supporting someone who is experiencing domestic abuse.
Knowing what to look for in an employee who may be experiencing domestic abuse
Changes to their work
- Regular absences, lateness or need to leave early or during the day
- Spending longer at work for no reason
- Noticeable reduction in quality, quantity or performance of work
- Increase in personal phone calls, texts and messages, avoidance of personal calls or annoyance at calls, texts and messages
- Regular visits to work from their partner, ex-partner or relative
- For homeworkers – difficult to contact or the constant presence of a partner/relative when in meetings
- Conducting themselves in an out-of-character way
- Becoming withdrawn, quiet, worried, tense, panicky, tearful, angry, distant or depressed
- Becoming detached from other employees
- Vague about home life, relationships or family
- For homeworkers – suddenly or frequently not having the camera on in meetings
- Alcohol, drugs or substance use
- Constantly or regularly tired
- Injuries that are unexplained or with an explanation that does not add up
- Wearing clothes that are not appropriate for the climate (which may be used to conceal injuries or signs of physical abuse)
- Increased or sudden lack of makeup
- Signs that they are being stalked or harassed by a partner, ex-partner or family member at work or online
- Partner, ex-partner or family member making demands on work commitments
- Appearing isolated from other employees, friends and family
Domestic abuse and hybrid working
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a lasting effect on the way many employees work. Many organisations have continued to embrace the home working or hybrid method of working. Whilst this new way of working has many benefits for the employee, for someone experiencing domestic abuse work may be the only safe place that they go.
The shift to a new way of working means the position of employers tackling domestic abuse and supporting employees who are experiencing it has never been more important.
Top tips for employers who have home and hybrid workers
- Make sure every employee has daily contact with a colleague
- Ensure staff know the links to support services by making them available on the intranet, staff newsletter, staff blog or staff noticeboard
- Give guidance to managers about the difficulties of working from home for an employee who is experiencing domestic abuse, and practical steps to support
- Monitor what steps managers are taking to protect their teams from domestic abuse
- Establishing a workplace policy
- Every organisation is different, when establishing a workplace policy on domestic abuse it should reflect the type, size and framework of the organisation. The guidance should take into consideration changes as a result of Covid-19.
A free template of a workforce policy can be found on the Kameo Recruitment website.
Having a conversation when domestic abuse is suspected
If an employee shows signs of experiencing domestic abuse it does not always mean the person is in an abusive relationship, there may be another reason for their behaviour. Even if they are experiencing abuse, they may not want to disclose it. Opening a conversation with an employee should be based on showing support if they are having any difficulties.
Here are some example questions that are indirect and supportive that you could use:
- I have noticed that you seem distant, is everything alright
- Is there something troubling you, if you need a chat, I am here for you
- How are you doing? If you need support with anything just let me know
- How are you coping with the workload, do you need any extra support
- What to do if an employee discloses, they are experiencing domestic abuse
If an employee does open up and disclose that they are experiencing domestic abuse, it is crucial to have that conversation in a non-judgmental way. An employee who is experiencing domestic abuse who opens up about it will need to feel believed and that the conversation is confidential – these are two of the biggest barriers that people when considering reaching out for help.
Find somewhere safe and private to talk, where the employee will feel comfortable. For an employee who works from home, and who cannot come to the office, arrange to meet in a public space (inside or out).
Reassure them that whilst you know it must be difficult to talk, that they are being courageous, and that the conversation will be in the strictest of confidence.
Unless you think they, their children or the organisation are in immediate danger, only make their situation known to anyone else if you are seeking help and support for them and let them know you will only do that after getting their approval.
- Use open body language and give them space so they do not feel threatened
- If required, reassure them that you believe them and never be judgemental
- Avoid talking about blame or fault
- Be patient and give them time to speak
- Have the tissues at the ready – they may be distressed or cry
- Let them know you will contact the HR lead for domestic abuse if they are happy for you to do so and discuss what they would like shared with them
- Support them with leave or flexible working hours so that they can attend support appointments or allow them to have such appointments at work
- Allow them to use the organisation’s telephone or computer to access help
- Put a plan in place to make sure they are safe at work and at home
Engaging with perpetrators of domestic abuse
An employer has a duty of care extended to perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Some signs to look out for that an employee may be a perpetrator of domestic abuse
- Derogatory comments made by an employee about their partner, ex-partner or a member of their family
- An employee expressing anger or annoyance at a partner, ex-partner or family member or blaming them for difficulties
- Regular injuries indicating involvement in violence – bite marks, scratches, bruises or bruised knuckles
- An employee who seems to have constant contact with their partner, ex-partner or family member either by text, messenger or phone
- An employee constantly referring to their partner, ex-partner or family member’s behaviour
- Using the work phone or computer or often on their mobile phone to track or harass their partner, ex-partner or relative
As with the signs of domestic abuse, there may be other reasons why an employee is showing this behaviour, it does not always mean that they are a perpetrator of domestic abuse. Perpetrators often hide their abuse, appearing pleasant to people they come into contact with. An employer may find out an employee is being abusive because they disclose it (often following an angry outburst) through a complaint or by being informed by the police that there has been an incident.
If an employer suspects that an employee is a perpetrator of domestic abuse, it is important to put safety first – if you want to open a discussion with an employee have another member of staff with you or meet in a public place.
An employer should keep accurate, confidential records in case there is a need for legal proceedings or disciplinary against the employee.
An employer should make an employee who is abusive aware of the potential consequences of their actions:
- Long-term negative effects on the abused and their children
- Separation from children
- Loss of job, home, money
Damage to other family relationships