Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence at Work

To many, domestic violence at home and the workplace may appear unrelated. However, it is important to remember that home and work issues can’t always be kept separate. Supporting victims of domestic violence at work is very important. Experiencing it can have a big impact on the working life of a victim.

Violence at home can result in poor performance from workers, also Increased Absenteeism or poor timekeeping.

People experiencing domestic violence are especially vulnerable once they attempt to leave their partners. They may be worried about coming to work or going home because the abuser knows where they are. This can give rise to health and safety issues and an increased risk of Workplace Violence.

Signs an Employee May Be Experiencing Domestic Violence

Often, victims are reluctant to discuss this issue with their employer or even their own colleagues. but there are some signs which, though not applicable to all, might give indications as to a victim’s plight.

They might include:

  • Turning up for work late or being absent without proper explanation.
  • Anxiety, depression, or problems with concentration.
  • Changes in the quality of work.
  • Receiving upsetting phone calls, or e-mails.
  • Being the victim of vandalism or threats.
  • Obsession with time.
  • Needing regular time-off for ‘appointments’.
  • Significant change in the employee’s dress sense.
  • Repeated bruising or injuries and explanations that don’t seem to fit the injuries.
  • Increase in hours being worked for no apparent reason.

Help for those Experiencing Domestic Violence

A worker experiencing domestic violence should be made aware that help is available. If they do not feel comfortable talking to their line manager, then human resources or a welfare officer can provide information. Let them know about organisations who can help and offer support. Make it clear the workplace will support their efforts to escape the bad situation.

Create a Domestic Violence Safety Plan

Changes can be made to the workplace to make it a safer place for the individual. Having a domestic violence safety plan will help support staff, and it can be put quickly into action if the need arises.

A safety plan will put policy in place for making changes at work to support staff. These changes could include changing work patterns, workload or just providing support. Discussions with the victim should be handled sensitively and in confidence and it is important to remember that the victim knows the abuser and their patterns of behaviour better than anybody so any final ‘plan’ should reflect their own suggestions.

Some possible adjustments that could be considered:

  • If an individual is absent, a method of communication could be established with them to make sure they are safe.
  • Identifying a work contact for support and an emergency contact should the employer be unable to contact the worker.
  • Allowing the worker to change work patterns and allowing more Flexible Working or special leave to help them leave their partner.
  • Blocking unwanted telephone calls and e-mails.
  • Alerting reception and security staff if the abuser is known to come to the workplace.
  • Alerting workplace nurseries if there is a fear of child abduction.
  • Checking that staff have put in place arrangements for the worker to get to and from work safely.
  • Allowing the worker to use an assumed name at work.

What can Other Employees do to Help?

There are no hard and fast rules about what a colleague should do to help if a co-worker is the victim of domestic violence. It is important to remember that the victim may prefer to keep details of their abuse strictly between themselves and their manager.

However, you can take basic steps to support a colleague who might be the victim of domestic abuse by talking in confidence to them. You can express support and ask if there is anything you can do to help. You should always do this with a light touch, just make them aware you are sympathetic. It’s important not to be judgemental but just try to be supportive and a good listener.

Employers should also be aware that, as well as looking out for the welfare of the individual, they also have a duty of care to the safety of the rest of the workforce. Ifa situation escalated which might cause the abuser to try to gain entry to the workplace, employers should not be afraid call the police if they are concerned that the safety of the workforce is threatened.

One thought on “Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence at Work

  1. Calling Out Corrupti says:

    If workplace bullying were treated in criminal law in a similar way to domestic abuse, there would have to be criminal prosecutions of various staff at HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) for the psychologically violent and utterly corrupt campaign they orchestrated against my partner. Particular shame on the Human Resources Casework team in Manchester who appear to have been instrumental in a grubby cover up. Evil and corrupt; the workplace violence law really must change.

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