Domestic violence

Facts about domestic violence, how it can affect your staff and what you can do to support them.

5 May 2022

The negative impact of domestic abuse can be huge for staff wellbeing, with large financial costs for employers. Domestic abuse has been around well before the COVID-19 pandemic, although the Office for National Statistics has reported an increase in domestic-violence cases during lockdown and working from home. It is important to have the right precautions in place for staff to feel safe and supported at work. 

  • LGBTQ+ and disabled people often experience disproportionately higher rates of severe and frequent incidents of domestic abuse. 

The impact of the pandemic 

The updated COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Surveillance Report (April 2022) published by the government, states that domestic abuse has been the largest contributor to an increase in incidences of self-harm during the pandemic. Working from home can be isolating, and often lowers the ability for victims to disclose abuse and for employers to spot signs of domestic abuse. Refuge recorded a 61 per cent rise in the number of calls to their domestic abuse helpline, indicating that victims required additional support. The talking domestic abuse plan by the home secretary, outlines the role employers play in supporting victims. In light of this, policies, protocols and guidance should be updated to provide maximum support to both victims and perpetrators in rehabilitation. 

Implications for employers 

Employee safety and wellbeing 

Victims can often be targeted in their workplace, especially once they leave their abusive partner, as it may be the most obvious place they can be located or harmed.  

In addition, domestic abuse is often unreported, and signs of physical and emotional abuse can be hard to spot. This can result in a lack of support, with detrimental effects on mental health, sometimes resulting in self harm

The financial cost  

The government reports a significant economic and social cost of domestic abuse. This impacts heavily on NHS organisations as providers of physical and mental health services that often deal with the consequences of domestic abuse. High costs have been associated with time lost due to absence from work. Lost output and reduced productivity after return to work following domestic abuse is estimated to cost the UK economy £14 billion

Advice for employers 

  • Work in partnership with staff and management to create a robust domestic abuse policy using the guidance developed by the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group (HSWPG).  

  • Put in place interventions such as additional security especially for lone workers, flexible working, staff relocation and time off for any associated appointments for victims or perpetrators in recovery. See more information in the HSWPG guidance on ways to support your staff.  

  • Be aware of potential financial implications for staff and offer support through interventions such as salary advances.

  • Create an open, non-judgemental culture. Raise awareness to beat the stigma and influence supportive behaviours at board and managerial level.  

  • Create a clear pathway for staff, emphasising confidentiality and a compassionate approach. 

  • Raise awareness of available support. Use wellbeing champions to communicate what support is available. This could be around managerial support, occupational health, helplines and any health and safety precautions victims and other staff can take in the workplace. 

  • Train your line managers to spot signs of abuse, signpost and support staff effectively using the NHS England and NHS Improvement's guidance and the enabling staff to work from home web page. Ensure staff are aware of code phrases such as 'Ask for Angela' to recognise when staff are asking for help.  

Advice for employees 

  • Speak to your line manager so they can find out how best to support you. Suffering in silence can be detrimental for your physical and mental health. Domestic violence can escalate quickly.  

  • If you feel unable to disclose the issue to your manager, consider approaching a mental health fist aider, wellbeing champion or the occupational health service in your organisation to seek help.  

  • Familiarise yourself with phrases such as Ask for Angela for when you may need urgent assistance. 

Further resources 

Has your organisation developed any supporting resources or programmes in this area?

Share your good practice Arrow pointing right