Nell Andrew: How can employers support those affected by domestic abuse?

Nell andrew

Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on individuals and their families. With two women every week and one man every month being killed by a partner or ex-partner, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics in February 2018, having an active, visible workplace policy on domestic abuse can be the difference between life and death for employees.

Organisations should support employees experiencing domestic abuse to access support services and information confidentially. This should include visible signposting to services and specialist support in a variety of locations in the workplace. For example, GMB members have noted that something simple like a poster in workplace toilets with a helpline number was the first step to escaping domestic abuse.

Next, employers must ensure that those experiencing domestic abuse will not be disadvantaged within the terms and conditions of their employment, and take all reasonable measures to facilitate any needs they might have in the workplace. People experiencing domestic abuse can face disciplinary action or job losses, often through no fault of their own, making it even more difficult to leave abusive relationships.

Reasonable changes to working times and locations, ensuring next of kin details are up to date and providing paid time off to leave abusive environments and access services can all provide support that is undetectable to the perpetrator.

Working with other organisations, such as Womens Aid, can also help facilitate the best support for those experiencing domestic abuse.

Employers should provide all employees with access to toolkits, information and policies on domestic abuse in easily and discretely accessible formats.

Next, ensure employees are trained to support others across the organisation. Trained staff should be representative of the workplace and should include line managers and trade union representatives.

GMB members report that, in many workplaces, there is a culture in which managers are unsure of their role and how to approach the subject, and workers, when they do disclose, are not always believed. This combination can silence employees experiencing domestic abuse. A workplace culture where employees experiencing domestic abuse are believed, safe and supported starts with training staff on policies and awareness, from all new staff inductions upwards.

Finally, employers should consider signing the Work to Stop Domestic Abuse Employer charter, like Sandwell Local Authority did in April, to demonstrate their commitment to supporting workers experiencing domestic abuse as an employer, following the key commitments outlined above.

Nell Andrew is national equality and inclusion officer at GMB

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