Last reviewed 14 October 2020

Just under a quarter (24%) of UK employees are aware of their employer’s policy or support available for those suffering domestic abuse, a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey has revealed.

Following a surge in calls from individuals to domestic abuse helplines during lockdown, the CIPD and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have published new guidance for employers, setting out how to recognise and support staff experiencing domestic abuse.

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Adviser at the CIPD, said: “There is evidence that incidences of domestic abuse have increased as a result of the pandemic and related restrictions, which have seen many more people working from home. It’s important that employers are knowledgeable about this issue as they are ideally placed to offer a lifeline to those experiencing it”.

The workplace can often be one of the few places that a person experiencing abuse can be separate from their abuser, she went on, and therefore it can be the place where people are able to ask for and access support.

Employers should have a clear policy in place, be able to signpost staff to professional support and offer the flexibility required to be able to access that help.

Interim EHRC Chairwoman, Caroline Waters, said: “We know that employers aren’t going to be able to prevent domestic abuse from occurring, but by following the four steps outlined in this guidance, they will be able to provide a supportive workplace for staff”.

The four steps are:

  1. Recognise the problem.

  2. Respond appropriately to disclosure.

  3. Provide support.

  4. Refer to the appropriate help.

Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse: A guide for employers can be found at https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/supporting-employees-experiencing-domestic-abuse_tcm18-84538.pdf.

Key recommendations

The guide urges employers to:

  • develop a domestic abuse policy and create an effective framework around domestic abuse support

  • think about the safety/security measures that may be required

  • treat everyone as an individual and not make assumptions about what someone is experiencing or what they need (or the gender of the perpetrator)

  • create open work cultures that help to break the silence around this important issue

  • offer flexibility to enable people to attend counselling, legal and finance appointments.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

Whilst it is not a legal requirement on employers, by doing more for affected staff, employers may begin to see that it has a positive impact on staff morale.

That said, it is possible that a lot more employers will be reviewing and fully publicising their policies on domestic abuse in the coming months, and even reviewing their homeworking policies to keep those who are in danger at home in mind.