Jacqui Kilburn: How can employers support those affected by domestic abuse?

Jacqui Kilburn

Domestic abuse has a dramatic impact on all aspects of a woman’s life, including on her employment. We know from our work with survivors that women have lost jobs as a result of their experience of domestic abuse or having to flee their home. We also know that financial concerns, including experiencing economic abuse, are a major barrier to escaping an abusive partner.

The workplace may be the only place someone who is experiencing domestic abuse goes on her own. Therefore, it might be her only avenue to access the support she needs to safely escape. It is important, then, for the workplace to be a safe space for survivors to speak out and get the support they need.

An estimated 1.3 million women experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018 alone, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics. It is therefore highly likely that someone you work with is living with domestic abuse.

Employers can make a real difference by taking certain steps to support employees who are experiencing domestic abuse.

First, organisations should introduce a domestic abuse policy, along with guidelines and procedures for staff. This policy might cover confidentiality, taking time off to attend appointments and flexible working options to ensure survivors’ safety when leaving an abusive partner.

Second, employers can provide specialist training for all staff on how to support an employee if they disclose their experience of domestic abuse to their manager, HR person or a colleague at work. This will give all staff the confidence that they know how to give a supportive response should a colleague speak to them about their experience of abuse.

Women’s Aid offers tailored support to businesses to help them develop a domestic abuse policy that will work for them. Our National Training Centre provides specialist training for staff on how to a give a safe and effective response so that employers can help survivors in their workforce to rebuild their lives free from domestic abuse.

Jacqui Kilburn is National Training Centre manager at Women’s Aid, which runs a 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Refuge, on 0808 2000 247