Domestic Abuse in the Workplace
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy undertook a report into domestic abuse and the workplace. The report identified that the number of domestic abuse cases had increased during the pandemic and that 1 in 5 victims of domestic abuse had time off work. Sadly, research found that few employers were able to identify the signs of domestic abuse and/or had policies or procedures available to help support survivors.
At the time the report was published in January 2021, the Business Minister also wrote an open letter to all employers urging them to be aware of signs of domestic abuse and to provide appropriate support for any employee who may be suffering from domestic abuse.
The Government’s Domestic Abuse Covid-19 campaign identified that domestic abuse is not only violence towards an individual but can also include:
- Coercive control;
- Economic abuse;
- Online abuse;
- Verbal abuse;
- Emotional abuse; and
- Sexual abuse.
The Government have tried to put new measures in place, such as ANI which enables victims to seek help by using a code word and have also made victims of domestic abuse exempt from the stay-at-home rule.
The researchers found that a supportive workplace could make a difference to the employee’s ability to get out of an abusive situation and therefore, employers are encouraged to provide support to employees if possible.
Initially, an employer needs to be aware of the signs that may indicate that an employee is suffering from domestic abuse. It is obviously harder to identify any physical signs whilst employees are working from home, however, there are other signs which may also indicate domestic abuse:
- Requesting wages to be paid into their partner’s account;
- Comments made by the employee about not having enough money;
- The employee not having or only having limited access to a laptop, phone or wi-fi connection;
- Refusal to put on the webcam;
- Requesting a reduction in hours and/or works irregular hours;
- Change of appearance; and
- Being anxious or fearful.
An employer could assist by:
- Allowing an employee to attend the work place instead of working from home (victims of domestic abuse are not required to stay at home);
- Signposting an employee to support services. The Government suggest the use of the Bright Sky App which provides a service directory;
- Offering flexibility around work patterns;
- Identifying that you will offer support in the staff handbook;
- Providing an Employees Assistance Programme which offers counselling;
- Providing training to members of staff.
If you would like any assistance with drafting a policy in relation to this issue or require advice on any other employment law related issue please contact the Employment team at Downs Solicitors.