The impacts of domestic violence do not subside during the hours of 9 – 5. The effects of living with abuse permeate every facet of a person’s life, including work. Domestic violence disrupts a person’s ability to work well at a time when they need an income.
Victims of domestic violence may miss work as a result of illness or injury. Or, because they have to appear in court or at other appointments. Perpetrators may also try to sabotage their partner’s work by limiting their access to transport to get to work. Or for example, by hiding her uniform.
At work, victims of domestic violence may lack concentration, be anxious or stressed. They are likely to suffer from low self esteem, a lack of self-confidence or depression. This significantly affects performance levels.
Domestic violence in the workplace
Often violence will continue during work hours. Perpetrators may send threatening messages or call constantly to harass their victim. They may turn up at the workplace, which then becomes a health and safety issue, not only for the victim, but also for other employees.
What can I do as an employer?
It is important that the workplace is a safe and supportive environment. This will encourage women, who are experiencing domestic violence, to feel comfortable enough to come forward. The following guidelines will help you create this type of environment.
Possible signs of domestic abuse may include:
- Arriving late to work or high absenteeism without explanation
- Uncharacteristic depression, anxiety, distraction or problems with concentration
- Changes in the quality of work performance for no apparent reason
- Receiving repeated upsetting calls/texts/emails
- Being obsessed with time
- Needing regular time off for appointments
- Inappropriate or excessive clothing or make-up
- Repeated injuries or unexpected bruising or explanations that do not fit the injuries
- Working increased hours for no apparent reason
Consideration should be given to the following:
- Routinely reminding all staff never to divulge personal information about employees to callers.
- Providing information and leaflets on domestic abuse to employees.
- Including articles about domestic abuse in the company’s newsletter and publications.
- Making people aware of helpline numbers e.g. displaying posters in prominent locations;
putting “helpline” stickers on the back of toilet doors; including the helpline numbers in payslips.
- Ensuring that key staff receive training to enable them to recognise and respond appropriately to
suspicions and/or disclosures of domestic abuse.
- Inviting specialist services into the workplace to speak to staff as part of a health awareness
programme or as a volunteer/fundraising initiative by staff.
It takes courage to disclose information about domestic abuse and it can be traumatic. However
this may be alleviated if the employer takes the disclosure seriously, believes what is said and
follows the guidelines set out below:
- Create an environment where employees feel safe and able to talk about issues that are affecting them.
- Choose a private place to talk – a quiet place away from others.
- Be attentive and listen carefully. Give the employee time to say what she wants.
- Be reassuring and do not blame or judge. Reassure her that she is not to blame for whatever has happened.
- Do not ask leading questions or make suggestions. Let her speak in her own time. Do not stop her recalling significant events but do not make her repeat the story unnecessarily.
- Do not offer advice under any circumstances or attempt reconciliation but rather provide details of the support services that are available.
- Do not over-react. Be aware of your own feelings and remain calm. An overly emotional response can silence the person disclosing.
- Do not recommend couple counselling – this can be very unsafe where there is domestic abuse.
- Managers should make a managerial commitment rather than a personal commitment to help a member of staff resolve any non-work issue.
- The Confidentiality Policy of the company should be applied to all disclosures of domestic abuse.
Find out more about the range of support services available