Domestic violence and abuse

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

16 November 2023

The negative impact of domestic violence and abuse can be hugely detrimental for staff wellbeing. It can also create large financial costs for employers through staff absences.

The most recent findings from the Office for National Statistics indicate numbers of people experiencing domestic abuse has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Even so it is important to have the right precautions in place for staff to feel safe and supported at work and when they work from home.

Some key statistics:

Of callers to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline in the year ending March 2022, where the abuse type was recorded, figures indicate:

  • 82.3 per cent experienced psychological or emotional abuse
  • 74.4 per cent experienced controlling behaviour
  • 56.4 per cent experienced threatening or intimidating behaviour.

The Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, published by the government in March 2022, outlines the role employers have to play in supporting victims. 

It encourages all organisations to ensure policies, protocols and guidance are in place which provide maximum support to both victims and perpetrators in rehabilitation. 

  • 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.  

    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 also 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

    • Work in partnership with staff and management to create a robust domestic abuse policy using the guidance developed by the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Group (HSWG).  
    • 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 HSWG guidance on ways to support your staff.  
    • Domestic abuse support: in this blog, Kim Sunley and Samantha Whann discuss the importance of having a workplace policy and bespoke support for staff regarding domestic abuse.
    • Have regular health and wellbeing conversations with your colleagues and peers which gives them an opportunity to confidentially share with you.
    • 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 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.  

    The NHS Staff Council has worked collaboratively with NHS England and Timewise to develop two new guides to support NHS line managers and staff to work more flexibly:

    • The line manager guide offers support and highlights pathways to successfully lead a flexible team, helping managers and leaders put structures and processes into place so flexible working is an option for all.  
    • The guide for individuals supports our NHS people to preparing for positive conversations around flexible working requests. It can support the best chance of finding a solution that works for them, their team, and their organisations. 
    • 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 wellbeing champion or the occupational health service in your organisation to seek help and support.  

    • Familiarise yourself with phrases such as Ask for Angela for when you may need urgent assistance. 
    • The 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline (run by Refuge) is available on 0808 2000 247, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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

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