“The silence must be broken and the misunderstanding that domestic abuse is not a workplace issue due to the myth that it only happens at home need to be dispelled. Three-quarters of those affected by domestic abuse are targeted at work.”

This is the warning from Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community (BitC) following the publication of the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that there has been no significant change in the prevalence of domestic abuse incidents in England and Wales over the past year.

Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk, the latest statistics show that in the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men).

Ms Aston said that businesses needed to acknowledge that both victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse could be employees in their workplace.

“Sadly domestic abuse is still in the foothills,” she went on, “remaining one of the last taboo subjects in the UK and has the stigma mental health had a decade ago. We need to make sure that the rise of mental health awareness continues to pave the way for employers to finally have open discussions about domestic abuse.”

While 86% of HR leaders agree that employers have a duty of care for employees experiencing domestic abuse, Ms Aston noted, only 5% of organisations have specific policies or guidelines on the issue.

Although the human cost is incalculable, she concluded, there is also a compelling business case for engaging with staff about this which is estimated at £1.9 billion a year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay.

BitC and Public Health England have produced a Domestic Abuse Toolkit for Employers which sets out clear steps that every employer can take to offer support to their employees. It can be found at https://www.bitc.org.uk.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

While some employers may be hesitant to delve into their employees’ private lives, exceptions should be made when there are concerns over the potential of domestic violence.

In many cases, coming to work can be something of a relief for those experiencing issues at home, and employers should look to encourage staff to disclose any concerns by promoting a supportive working environment.

A transparent workplace policy should help encourage these disclosures and managers ought to remain professional and approachable at all times. It will also help if senior staff have an understanding of the legal and charitable support on offer to victims of domestic violence and can provide staff with the information needed to help them manage such difficult circumstances.

Last reviewed 9 December 2019